Garden mulching: Material and Advantages


On many occasions the English term mulching is heard to designate the protection of the soil where the crop is located. In Spanish we have a name, padding. Let’s see what it is, what it is used for and what we gain or lose by applying this technique. We already warn you that you win more than you lose. It is worth a try. Let’s see.


The padding or mulching (in English), consists of covering the soil where our crop is developing.

This not only benefits the crop due to the obvious difficulty it poses for adventitious plants, but it also benefits the soil itself, protecting it from solar radiation, for example. If we have compost on the surface, as recommended by the Parades en crestall method , we will protect it from said radiation.


  • We shade both the surface compost (if any) and the earth, promoting a microclimatic situation that will favor the microbial and nitrifying flora. This translates into better nitrification with the consequent contribution of nitrogen to our soil.
  • We prevent to a certain extent the work sole (compression of the earth) and we facilitate aeration due to its porosity.
  • The shade that we have mentioned that it gives to the earth, maintains optimal humidity levels.
  • We prevent the development of a large part of the adventitious plants
  • If we already mentioned the great savings advantages of exudative irrigation, if you combine it with this technique, the water savings will be even greater by avoiding the dehydration of the soil in its most superficial layer.
  • With the padding we get a better structure on the ground.
  • We avoid the incidence of a large part of ultraviolet radiation that can damage the microbial flora of the superficial layers.
  • At the end of the day, the mulch is organic matter that will end up decomposing with the consequent contribution of nutrients to the soil.

As we can see, the advantages of padding are a few. Disadvantages is not that it has many, but they should be taken into account because it is not always good, nor is it suitable for all climates.

  • In the first place, if what we have planted is by transplantation, the padding is perfect for you. If it is direct sowing then we will have problems because they need the calorific and luminous contribution of the sun to germinate properly.
  • Another factor to consider is the weather. For hot climates this technique is best for us. Long summers, hot springs … However, in cold and humid climates it is very difficult for the earth to absorb enough heat in spring, necessary for example, for the proper development of Solanaceae and Cucurbits.


Let’s see what materials we can use:

  • Straw : Cereal straw is the best of the mulches. Just one snag. If we do not want to make an extra effort pulling herbs, we must be careful with straw that contains cereal grain that will end up germinating. In addition, the cereal straw withstands decomposition quite well.
  • Mowed grass : It is another good mulch. We must put a thin layer comparing it with straw since it is more caked than this and can be counterproductive if we add too much. It can rot and we will not achieve the desirable aeration effect or the right conditions. It is less stable than straw, it decomposes faster so it will have to be replaced more often.
  • Pruning remnants (BRF) : This is another very good mulch. Obviously it must be shredded! This padding deserves special attention. It decomposes very slowly (more than 2 years) and in the end it will contribute a quantity of nutrients that the use of compost, manure or any other type of fertilizer will be almost unnecessary. This type of mulch is called BRF , French acronym for  Boix Rameaux Fragmentés (chopped branch wood). In many European countries this padding is made instead of straw, very often in fruit trees.
                                 Straw padding BRF padding
  •  Mowed grass : Same behavior as grass. Beware of thick layers that cause the lower layers of the padding to collapse. We will waterproof the earth and drown it. Nothing desirable.
  • Pine bark:  NOT highly recommended due to its acidity. It can be useful in crops that prefer acid soils.
  • Sawdust : It is also not highly recommended if we do not know well the origin of that chip. It may have traces of resins and artificial glues.
  • Cardboard and paper : Also useful, but aesthetically debatable. Be careful with the prints and inks that they may have. We do not think the method is highly recommended either, but it can also be used.
  • Gravels and expanded clays : Do you remember the good properties of perlite for the sowing substrate ? Well, they can also be used for padding. They aerate and maintain correct humidity.
  • Stones : Used in arid areas. They shade, keep moisture, protect from the sun.
  • Green manure as mulch : That’s right, we wanted to save this one for last. A few days ago we talked about green manures. In themselves they are an excellent mulch if we know those that provide nutrients (legumes) and do not compete with the main crops. If you want to know more about this mulching method, take a look at the entry on green manures .

We leave you a video of Huertina de Toni that tells us first-hand the advantages of mulching in her garden. Thanks Toni!

As you can see, you have to choose. It is already a question of what each one has more at hand and wants to try. At Gardenprue, we particularly believe that straw is a good option as well as BRF, to which we will dedicate an entry in not much time. If you want to be the first to know about this publication, subscribe!

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