In Northern India, extreme summer conditions prompt gardeners and plant lovers to ‘mulch ‘ the soil of pots or ground cover in an attempt to keep the soil somewhat cool during summers.
Mulching means layering the exposed part of the ground or soil in a pot with some organic material such as dried leaves, coconut husk, cocopeat, compost, wheat or rice husk, grass, coir, sugarcane bagasse, peanut shells, cardboard pieces etc. Using organic mulch has an added advantage of increasing the humus content of the soil and improving the overall quality of the soil. The use of dried neem leaves as a mulch has the added advantage of providing insecticidal properties for the plant.
Sometimes, during winters, ground cover is mulched using plastic sheets to protect commercial produce like strawberries. These sheets are also used in greenhouse floriculture.
Benefits of mulching:
- Mulching helps in retaining the moisture content of the soil, thus reducing the need to water the plants so frequently. This leads to conservation of water.
- Soil temperature is regulated which helps in the proper growth of roots, and thus impacts the overall health of the plant.
- The organic mulch improves the quality of the soil by increasing the humus content and enriching the soil with a steady supply of nutrients.
- Mulching is known to play a vital role in increasing the yield of vegetable and fruiting plants.
- The growth of harmful weeds is arrested due to mulching.
- Moist soil beneath the mulch activates the micro-flora and beneficial micro-organisms thrive in it.
- Care should be taken that the mulch does not touch the main stem of the plant, as the moisture retained by the mulch can lead to a fungal attack on the stem.
- Mulching should be done loosely, allowing space for air circulation.
- Mulch should be removed upon the onset of the rainy season as excess moisture can harm the plant.