How to Make Mulch - Composting At Home DIY
How to Make Mulch
Mulch is great in the garden because it prevents soil erosion, keeps moisture in the ground, helps prevent weed growth, protects plants from pests, and helps soil maintain an even temperature. You can make your own mulch by collecting and repurposing organic matter found in your own yard, including leaves, grass clippings, and branches.
Making Leaf Mulch
Collect leaves.Many homes have leafy trees and plants that provide a great mulch source, and leaf mulch is a good all-purpose mulch for your garden. You can either gather leaves by raking up ones that fall in the autumn, or collect the leaves that you prune off plants.
- Avoid using the leaves from walnut and eucalyptus trees, as these can prevent other plants from growing.
Rake the leaves into a pile.Use a rake or leaf blower to amass all your leaves into a large pile. To prevent damage to the lawnmower blades, pile the leaves on a flat section of lawn. Spread the leaves out into a layer that’s no more than 2 inches (5 cm) thick.
- Use a shovel and wheelbarrow to collect all the leaves if you don’t have a rake or leaf blower.
Shred the leaves with a lawnmower.Once the leaves are all piled together in a thin layer, turn on your lawnmower and mow over the pile a few times to chop the leaves into smaller pieces. Continue shredding until the pieces are dime-sized.
- Shredding the leaves will help them to decompose in the garden, and this will provide the soil with nutrients.
- You can also use an electric leaf shredder to chop the leaves. Use hedge trimmers to manually shred the leaves if you don’t have anything else.
Use the mulch right away and store extras.Once the leaves have been shredded, they're ready to use as mulch in the garden. Extra mulch can be stored in a ventilated barrel, a large bag with air holes, or spread out on a tarp and covered from the elements.
- Once the leaf mulch is ready, you can also combine it with other mulch materials from around the yard.
- The longer the mulch is stored, the more nutrients it will lose.
- Mulch that is stored in low or no ventilation areas will begin to ferment and release high pH toxins, which are deadly to plants.
Making Mulch Combinations
Chop up tree branches, bark, and trimmings.Wood also makes great mulch, and you can make wood or bark mulch from organic matter from around the yard. Go around your house and collect fallen branches, bark, or tree trimmings that you pruned from your plants. Put on safety glasses and process the wood and bark through a wood chipper to make a mulch.
- Bark and wood mulch can be used on its own or combined with leaf mulch.
- Wood mulch is ideal for established gardens and plants, but shouldn’t be used with young plants.
- You can rent a wood chipper from a hardware store if you don’t have one of your own.
- Wood decomposes more slowly than leaves, so this would be a good mulch for long term use.
Collect grass clippings to add to the mulch.Grass clippings make an ideal addition to leaf mulch, though they aren't as effective when used alone. After mowing your lawn, rake up the grass clippings.Mix the clippings in with the leaf mulch and use a spade or pitchfork to mix them together.
- If your mower has a bag to collect grass, simply pour the contents of the bag into the leaf mulch when you're done.
Rake up pine needles for your mulch.Like grass clippings, fallen pine needles can also be mixed with leaf mulch. Pine mulch is best used with acid-loving plants.Rake up needles from around your yard and combine them with the leaf mulch using a shovel or pitchfork.
Repurpose shredded paper.Newspaper and other types of paper from around the house can also be recycled and turned into mulch.Collect the paper and use an electric shredder or scissors to shred the paper into small pieces. Combine the paper shreds with the leaf mulch and use as normal.
Using Mulch in the Garden
Mulch in summer and winter.In summer, mulch will help your gardens retain moisture and keep the roots cool. In winter, the mulch will protect the plants from frost and help to keep the soil warm. Summer mulches will decay over time, but winter mulch should be removed in spring.
- Ideal summer mulches include leaf mulch, leaf mulch mixtures, and compost.
- Ideal winter mulches include pine needles, straw, and bark.
Remove old winter mulch.In the spring when you start gardening again, remove the winter mulch that protected the gardens during colder weather. You can add the removed mulch to your compost pile.
- Winter mulches don’t decompose as quickly as summer mulches, so it’s important to remove them in summer so you can add more nutrient-rich mulches to the soil.
Pull out weeds.Before adding mulch to the garden, go around and pull out all the weeds you find in the bed. Otherwise, the mulch will protect the weeds and allow them to thrive. This will also create unwanted competition for the plants you're actually trying to grow.
Add several inches of mulch to your gardens.Apply the mulch after you’ve finished planting in spring, or when you finish preparing the garden for winter. Use a shovel or rake to spread a 2- to 6-inch (5- to 15-cm) layer of mulch over the garden bed:
- In shadier areas, use 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) of mulch
- In sunny areas, use 3 to 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) of mulch
- In really hot and sunny areas, use up to 6 inches (15 cm) of mulch.
Make a well around the base of the plants.After you spread the mulch out over the garden bed, use your hand or a spade to pull the mulch away from the base of the plants. This is especially important in shady areas, because it will protect the plants from mold, rot, and insects.
- Providing some distance between the plant and the mulch will also allow air to circulate the plant, providing ventilation that is essential for healthy growth.
- Leave 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm) of space between the mulch and the base of the plants, or enough room so the mulch isn't touching the plants.
QuestionWhat is the difference between compost and mulch?
HorticulturistHorticulturistExpert AnswerThe main difference is that compost is a mulch made out of exclusively organic materials.Thanks!
QuestionHow do you make mulch out of leaves?
HorticulturistHorticulturistExpert AnswerShred dry leaves with a mower then place in mulching bin with nitrogen producing material such as grass or bone meal and add water to make mixture wet. Cover bin over the winter and be ready to use mulch in spring.Thanks!
QuestionWhat is mulch made out of?
HorticulturistHorticulturistExpert AnswerMulch can be made out of a variety of materials including woodchips, animal manure, straw, leaves, and grass clippings.Thanks!
QuestionShould the leaves be dry or fresh as clipped from the bush or tree?
HorticulturistHorticulturistExpert AnswerEither dry or fresh leaves would be perfect for making your own mulch, so use what works best for you.Thanks!
QuestionDo I need any kind of chemical to add to my mulch making?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNot at all. The best mulch is chemical-free.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use left over fruit and vegetables for mulch?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerNo. Left over fruit and vegetables are best used for compost.Thanks!
QuestionCan I add manure? If so, what kind?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Composted steer or chicken manure works best, and it will help speed up the decomposition of the mulch.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use humus as mulch?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can use it, but it might not be as effective as conventional mulch materials.Thanks!
QuestionCan I use food scraps in my mulch?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerUse the same food waste as you would for compost. Avoid too much (attracts bigger pests like raccoons, etc). Do not mix mulch or non-composted material into soil as it is acidic and while decomposing it will rob nitrogen, oxygen, and other nutrients from the soil that plants need to grow. Let it rot, on top.Thanks!
QuestionCould I used a black plastic under to cover the soil before I put down the mulch?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerSome people put plastic covers over soil before adding mulch to reduce weed growth, but plastic will prevent water absorption and aeration of the soil. Instead, try using a weed killer before applying mulch.Thanks!
To make mulch, start by raking up leaves from your yard and collecting them into a large pile. Then, use a rake or leaf blower to spread them out into a thin layer that’s 2 inches thick. Next, mow over the leaves a few times with your lawnmower to chop the leaves into small pieces. Once the leaves are cut up into roughly dime-sized pieces, add grass clippings, pine needles, or shredded paper to the mulch. Finally, use the mulch right away or store it under a tarp until you need it.
- If you use a wood chipper, follow the directions carefully and wear protective gear, such as gloves, a hat and safety glasses.
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Video: HOW TO MAKE FREE MULCH FROM FALL LEAVES. LEAF MOLD.
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