Laying mulch is a great way to give your plants a natural boost to keep them beautiful and healthy. If you’re up for a DIY project, making your own mulch is more simple than you might think. In addition to being easy on your wallet, making your own mulch reduces waste by recycling resources you’d normally toss in the garbage bin. Just follow this simple, five-step process.
Choose what you’ll turn into mulch. Where you live and the time of year can help you pinpoint exactly what kind of mulch source you’ll use. Leaves, yard trimmings and compost are an excellent choice for summertime mulch. Save your pine needles, bark and straw for when the temperature starts to dip in the fall. If you have newspaper on hand, it’s a great mulch additive for any time of the year.
Gather up all of your materials in one place. Once you’ve identified what will go into your mulch, it’s time to collect it in one place. Rake fallen or pruned leaves into a pile. You can also collect branches or wood trimmings if you’d like, but make sure to keep them in a separate area for the time being. Toss in any grass clippings you have. If you’re using a compost pile, keep things relatively moist inside. Use a pitchfork or shovel to turn the materials and keep them rotating while they break down. It should be ready in two weeks to four months, depending on how you care for it and what the weather’s like.
Start the conversion process. Use your lawnmower to chop up your leaf pile — a grass-catching bag can help make this process much easier. After you’ve run the pile over a few times, rake it all together. You should send branches and wood trimmings into a small wood chipper, which you can rent from a hardware store. Don’t forget your safety glasses before you get started. Now is also a good time to shred up old newspapers and check on your compost: What’s the consistency like? How about the color and smell? Compost that’s ready for mulching should appear dark brown, have an earthy odor and be crumbly.
Get the ground ready. Your mulch is almost ready to go, and now it’s important to take time to prep your property for this new influx of nutrients. Do this by getting rid of any old mulch that remains on the ground, so you have a fresh start. Toss the remains into your compost pile, if you have one. Next, you need to carefully weed the area. It’s bad to leave weeds in place because your new mulch can help them grow — that’s the last thing you want.
Spread your newly made mulch. Depending on the unique needs of your garden — and the season — you’ll want to use different levels of mulch. You can research the best option for your area. Generally speaking, 2 inches of mulch should work well. You can lay it out evenly with a rake; be sure to leave a small “well” of shallower mulch around the base of plants. Then, sit back and enjoy! Your landscape has new nutrients to help it flourish throughout the summer.