The mulch that helps your plants grow comes in many shapes and sizes. Here are three unexpected items that can be used as mulch to great effect in the garden.
Carpet—The lazy man's garden
Carpet provides all the benefits of a traditional woodchip or straw mulch, plus a few bonus advantages. Like traditional mulch, it allows moisture to reach the soil and it keeps the soil damp while killing off weeds and preventing them from growing. But unlike traditional mulches, carpet requires least maintenance as it won't blow away in the wind or require anything to hold it down.
Best of all, it can be collected for free on hard rubbish days or bought cheaply secondhand. Apply your carpet upside-down at least a month before planting and you'll save yourself the efforts of tilling the soil. When it comes time to plant your seeds, simply cut square or circular holes where you want your veggies to go. Use wool or cotton carpet to ensure it's biodegradable, and when the season's over, this will provide fresh feed for your soil.
Plastic—The greenhouse effect
Plastic is often used as mulch in commercial agriculture with great success. Like traditional mulches, it keeps soil moist and blocks weeds from growing. Plastic has the added benefit of raising soil temperature which boosts the productivity of your veggies. Get your plastic in black or clear from the hardware store and you can use it year after year.
Plastic needs a bit more maintenance than many mulches and comes with certain risks. Because it restricts air and water from reaching the ground, plastic can cause plants to dehydrate, or even to become saturated in their own moisture and start to rot. Solve this problem by creating holes in the plastic with a fork, or simply apply the plastic as a strip along a single side of a row of plants. This allows some of the soil to be exposed around the plant and prevents the stems from moistening and rotting.
Newspaper—Read all about it
Newspaper is perhaps the mother of all unconventional mulches. It allows moisture and air to enter keeping the soil fertile. It also blocks weeds from growing and prevents splashback which could cause your plants to catch disease after watering. It's greatest advantage is that it's the most easily accessible, cost effective and effortless mulch available. Newspaper is completely biodegradable and easy to replace as soon as it deteriorates.
Learn more about these options and pick up the supplies you need by contacting resources like Tenkate Landscape Supplies.