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Southern California Gardening: Mulch for Healthier, Happier Plants

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

This page covers basic mulching strategies and expounds on the many benefits of mulching, including less weeding and watering, and healthier soil.

The sweet spring rains seduce us into thinking we can begin to plant NOW. But if we do so without a few simple steps beforehand, our plants will struggle.

Honor thy weeds. Our normally dry soil is moist, which makes weed pulling easy and almost a contemplative chore. I love to sit on the ground and scoot from weed to weed, tugging the easy to remove invaders, and digging out deep-rooted renegades such as dandelions. If weeds flower and broadcast seeds, a small chore can become overwhelming.

Mulch your beds, borders and trees with a 4-inch topping of bark, grass clippings, leaves, straw or compost. Your blanket of mulch will keep soil moist, improve its structure, prevent erosion, exclude weeds, and stop soil-borne disease from splashing onto and infecting plants.

What happens beneath the mulch is pure magic. Worm populations will boom. The little wrigglers will eat their way through the earth, mix and aerate soils, and leave behind a slimy network of nitrogen-rich tunnels, which allow water to percolate to a plant’s roots.

Even container gardens benefit from mulch and worms. Just add a topping of mulch and a handful of worms to each pot. The worm’s little mounds of castings are food for the soil and worth their weight in gold.

Weed, mulch, plant, and don’t forget to relax and enjoy what you’ve created. Your tireless task force of worms will pick up the slack.