How to Take Care of Your Soil ~ with Mulch

How to take care of your soil with mulch pic

When I first started gardening here in South Carolina, I didn’t pay much attention to mulch. That first year, wood chip mulch was more for replacing the grass around my raised beds than anything else. However, after that first summer, I began to realize that mulch should be a very important part of my garden.

I first thought that the main purpose of mulch was to decrease the weeds in the garden, so I passed it off as not that important. Well, I not only spent a lot of time weeding that first summer, I also discovered that my soil was losing its “loaminess” in the searing heat of the South Carolina sun. What I failed to understand was that healthy soil is full of beneficial living organisms that must be fed and protected, and they, in turn, will feed and protect my plants. Mulch is so much more than a means of reducing weeds.


Here are all the benefits of using mulch in your garden:

  • Reduces weeds
  • Makes it much easier to pull weeds – roots and all
  • Is a continuous source of organic matter for your soil
  • Moderates soil temperature – keeps the soil warmer during cool weather and cooler during hot weather (Here in South Carolina, it’s a parasol for my plants’ roots!)
  • Helps retain moisture in the soil
  • Reduces soil compaction
  • Improves soil fertility
  • Reduces disease (Many soil-borne pathogens are splashed onto plant leaves by falling rain; mulch provides a protective layer between the soil and plant leaves.)
  • Promotes healthy mycorrhiza, the fungi that benefits plant roots, increasing plant growth, vigor, and disease resistance


There are many types of mulch you can use in the garden.

  • Wood chips – use large chips around trees and bushes and finer chips in the vegetable garden
  • Pine needles – great for acid-loving plants
  • Grass clippings – endless, free supply all summer
  • Dried leaves – cut them up with your lawn mower and spread in your garden (beats having to rake them up, too!)
  • Straw – don’t use hay, which contains seeds


During summer #2 (last summer), I decided to mulch a few beds with grass clippings – as an experiment. I chose grass clippings because they’re easy to spread around existing plants, and they decompose more quickly than other mulches. Plus, it was free.

I was amazed at the difference between the beds with mulch and those without! The soil under the grass clippings was loamy and moist – even after weeks in the summer heat. The soil in the unmulched beds was dry, fine, and even hard in some places. It looked…dead.

During the short off-season this past winter, I covered my fallow beds with dried leaves that had been cut up with my lawn mower. When I pulled the mulch off those beds this spring to prep for planting, I dug into the most organic soil I have ever had in my raised beds! It was black loam that smelled like a forest. That did it for me. Never again will I have naked soil in my garden. Even my planters and pots are now mulched!


A month or so ago, I came across an awesome movie about how to garden nature’s way ~ using mulch. I saw that not only was this way best for my soil and my plants (which my experiment had already shown me), but it would also eventually cut down on my work load as well as save me money. What gardener wouldn’t love that??

The movie is called, Back to Eden. This is a full length movie, so make yourself some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch it on your Smart-TV or your computer. You’re going to love it.

Happy mulching,


6 comments on “How to Take Care of Your Soil ~ with Mulch

  1. Just found your blog, I too live in the south. Near Charleston SC. When you say use leaves for mulch, have you used oak leaves? I have plenty of those but I’ve never heard anyone say they work. Usually people use pine straw or wood mulch. Last spring I used the red mulch but was wary about the red dye that bled out of it when it was watered.

    • Hi, Carolyn. Welcome! So glad you found me! I live outside Charleston myself, so we’re practically neighbors!

      First, NEVER use dyed wood mulch on your property, especially in your vegetable garden. The dye is toxic.

      Second, the best mulch for a garden is dried plant material from the prior year’s garden (IF it has no disease, that is), dried grass clippings, and leaves of any kind…even oak leaves. I have a lawn mower with a bag, so I like to take the lawn clippings after the leaves have fallen and put them on my raised beds. The clippings contain grass and chopped up leaves (oak and sweet gum, mostly). Cover the beds with a layer at least an inch thick and watch how good your soil looks and smells come spring! You can then mix the mulch right into the soil if your layer wasn’t too thick.

      Happy to have you here. Please go to the “FOLLOW” button on the right and enter your email address, then confirm the email you’ll be sent. That way, you’ll get an email notification whenever I post new material.


      • I googled about the dye and apparently I should have read the bag to see what kind of wood it was. Some kinds chop up pallets?! made from wood treated with arsenic! I never even thought of reading the print of bags of mulch. Thanks for making me aware of that.Supposedly the red mulch isn’t supposed to have that anymore. I hope not! Also, loved the movie “Back to Eden” and shared it. Just seeing his beautiful garden makes me want to get to work. I garden in my wheelchair which takes a lot of patience and adaptability.

      • Yuck! Yes, anything with dye in it can’t be good for the soil.

        I loved “Back to Eden.” What great soil he had!

        Gardening in a wheelchair? You go, girl! That’s amazing! And I complain about MY back when I’m out in the garden too long. I admire you! What an inspiration you are. 🙂

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