“Can you till mulch into soil?” You ask. Well, you’re not alone, most people get confused on if it’s right to till mulch into soil or not. You may also be worried about the impact of mulch on soil’s health due to its non-renewable nature.
You can till mulch into soil to increase its organic matter, improving fertility. First, clear the garden of all debris, then spread and mix the mulch into the soil. Once it decomposes, it adds beneficial nutrients to your plants. Mulching also helps in improving drainage and aeration in the ground.
In this article, you’ll know if it’s okay to till mulch into the soil and how you can do it. Also, I’ll explore the benefits you get when you lay the mulch in your garden.
Can You Till Mulch Into Soil?
Yes, you can till mulch into soil as it improves the productivity and fertility of the soil. Besides, mulching maintains soil moisture content, prevents erosion, and improves soil conditions. Installing mulch helps improve your crop yield and optimise the use of water.
However, when bacteria and microorganisms break down the mulch, there is initially a nitrogen deficiency in the soil. It occurs because the organisms use nitrogen to decompose the mulch.
Therefore, this robs plants’ nitrogen, resulting in their leaves turning yellow as they can’t produce enough chlorophyll.
The decomposing components consume the organic matter, and the nitrogen found in the dead organisms changes to ammonium ions. The nitrifying bacteria then convert the ammonium to nitrate in 2 to 6 months. This process depends on the population of the microorganisms and the condition of the soil.
During decomposition, the microorganisms use up the nitrogen and release it into the soil as ammonium nitrate.
How To Till Mulch Into The Soil?
Tilling mulch into the soil is an easy process that you can do on your own without professional input. The following are the steps to guide you when tilling mulch into the garden:
- Clean Out Your Garden Bed
Remove all the debris, leaves, and sticks. Using a spade, create an edge along your garden to prevent lawn grass from creeping into your garden bed.
- Remove Weeds
One of the benefits of mulching is that it suppresses weeds. Therefore, remove all weeds before laying the mulch.
Additionally, you can apply a pre-emergent herbicide that inhibits weed seeds from germinating.
- Water Your Garden
Wet down dry beds, especially if you haven’t experienced rain recently. A moist surface is most suitable for tilling mulch as it is easier to work on the soil.
Watering also activates the pre-emergent herbicide.
- Spread The Mulch
Now, spread your mulch in the garden. You can use a shovel to till your mulch into about 2 to 4 inches of your topsoil.
Be careful when tilling to ensure that the roots of the plants remain untouched to avoid killing them.
Most importantly, ensure the soil completely covers the mulch.
Spread the mulch evenly and smoothly spread to avoid clumps ending up in the soil.
- Add A Top Layer
Add and spread the top layer of compost evenly. Next, take new mulch and spread it over the recently added compost.
Finally, you can water the garden again to settle the mulch into the soil.
Do You Need To Remove Old Mulch Before Adding New Mulch?
There is no need to remove old mulch before adding new mulch. However, ensure the fresh mulch doesn’t cause a barrier to the soil beneath. The new mulch should completely cover the old mulch.
If you add more mulch and the layer becomes too thick, it causes moisture retention in the soil. The retention can cause problems in the plants, including root rot.
Additionally, a thick layer leads to heat retention in the soil during hot days.
Ensure the layer is adequate to allow for much-needed evaporation.
To avoid the above effects caused by having a soil barrier, mix some mulch into the soil. Then, remove the rest to compose for later use. Also, you should remove excess mulch to protect the ground from nitrogen deficiencies.
It’s time to replenish the old much as soon as you notice signs of decomposition and discolouration. It’s advisable to mix in the old mulch before winter sets in to give it sufficient time to decompose.
There are plenty of affordable options available for you to use to replenish your mulch.
What Are The Benefits Of Mixing Mulch Into The Soil?
There are several benefits of mixing mulch into the soil. Below are the benefits achieved from using mulch in the garden:
Increases Organic Matter: One of the main benefits of adding mulch into the soil is increasing organic matter. The bacteria and microorganisms found in the mulch produce compost, which is rich in organic matter.
As a result, it creates healthy plants and more disease-resistant plants. Also, it builds a better environment for flora and fauna, which are the soil’s natural population.
Increases Aeration And Drainage In The Soil: When bacteria and microorganisms down the mulch, you get compost.
Compost provides a suitable environment for insects and earthworms found in the soil. When the insects and earthworms move through the ground, they increase aeration by creating air spaces. Additionally, this improves the soil’s texture and drainage.
These benefits are, however, only realized if you use organic mulch. Inorganic mulch does little to improve the soil’s drainage, aeration, or nutritional value.
Increases Soil Nutrients: Mixing mulch into the soil provides food for microorganisms and bacteria. As a result, you add extra nutrients for the plants to use.
Improve Soil Moisture: Mulching reduces the amount of water lost from the ground during evaporation. Therefore, improving the moisture content of the soil—hence, benefiting your plants. Additionally, you don’t need to water your plants frequently.
Reduce Weeds: Mulch helps reduce the weeds by inhibiting their germination. Interestingly, when you mix your soil with mulch, the weed that grows after that is weak and easy to pull out.
Controls Soil Erosion: Mulch helps control soil erosion by acting as a cushion against raindrops and slowing runoff. Heavy rainfall causes the stripping of vital nutrients from the soil.
What’s more? Mulch helps hold these nutrients together, keeping the soil’s nutrients.
How Long Does It Take For Mulch To Become Soil?
Usually, mulch takes one year to start breaking down. It completely decomposes in about 3 years, providing great nutrients to the soil.
However, inorganic mulch takes more time to break down than organic mulch.
What’s the conclusion of the matter, therefore? Can you till mulch into the soil? Indeed, you can! It enhances the health of the soil. This happens because of reduced evaporation of the water and retained moisture in the ground. Mulching also regulates the soil temperature and suppresses weeds. Moreover, it encourages the biological activity of insects and earthworms found in the soil.
Most importantly, it would be best to be careful when choosing inorganic mulch materials like plastic. It mainly concerns your needs and the environmental conditions.
Organic mulching, however, is a viable option, especially when considering how to improve your soil fertility and productivity.