Another feature on our weekly garden page in the weekend Real Estate & Home section of the paper is a Q&A called Ask the Master Gardeners.
Readers write in with questions, which are answered by a panel of local master gardeners. Lots of good info here, so I thought I’d begin running them on the blog, too.
We’ll start with a question on mulch.
Q: My neighbor mulches her garden, but Iâ€™m not sure if I should or what I would use. What is mulch? What are the benefits?
A: Mulch is any type of material that is spread over the surface of your soil as a covering. It acts as a barrier between the soil below and the air above.
Why mulch? Mulch helps retain moisture, keeps the soil cool, shields the soil from erosion, helps suppress weeds (itâ€™s also easier to pull weeds from mulch than the garden soil itself), prevents roots from freezing, makes an attractive ground cover and may reduce the spread of some soil-borne diseases.
You can use aged animal manure, compost, shredded bark chips or leaves, straw, peat, pebbles and crushed rocks. Some people like myself use four to five layers of newspaper covered with compost.
Your choices vary and one type may not suit the needs of your entire garden. You may want to use a few depending on the type of plantings you have. You can rake and use pine needles and leaves from your own yard, go to a home or garden center and buy a commercial product or order a bulk delivery from your local nursery.
Whichever method you choose, you will want to add at least 2 inches of the product to benefit. If you use an organic product that breaks down into the soil over time, remember to add more from time to time to keep the beneficial barrier.
Iâ€™m sure you will be glad you took the time initially to lay down the mulch when you see the results in your garden.
Sue Brennan, White Plains, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension, Westchester