There are many disadvantages to mulching, just as there are positives. The drawbacks of organic mulches like hay, grass, wood chips, and straw are their propensity to attract a lot of pests and the possibility of root rot or plant damage. However, employing inorganic mulches like plastic and rubber prevents drying out the soil.
Most of the time, mulching is incredibly beneficial to plants, yet, like anything else in life, it also has certain drawbacks. The good news is that there are more benefits than disadvantages of mulching. Many individuals believe that using more mulch will improve their outcomes, but this frequently has the opposite effect.
Whether you use organic or inorganic mulches, each has its drawbacks. Some of these drawbacks can be overcome, but in some instances, you have to remove the mulch and replace it. When discussing the disadvantages of mulching, location is crucial because mulches respond differently to different climates. Some organic mulches decompose very quickly while creating an anaerobic environment in other places, which greatly slows the decomposition process.
Here’s our favorite mulch that you can buy online. Disclaimer: I recommend buying mulch in your local garden center or big box store. Typically there’s a lot more options and you’ll be able to talk to someone about it’s specific uses.
What are the Disadvantages of Mulching?
Mulch May Attract Pests
One of the biggest disadvantages of mulching is that it attracts pests. Pests of all sizes, including slugs, snails, mice, rats, rabbits, and even deer, are drawn to organic mulches. Your organic mulch will be a favorite among pests that feed on rotting or dead plant matter. The majority of organic mulches not only provide food for pests but also refuge for them. Slugs and snails, in particular, benefit from the wet climate that organic mulches offer. Pests will be drawn to mulches consisting of grass clippings, hay, straw, and even wood chips, so keep an eye out for them.
Most of these garden pests, which is excellent news, will feast on the mulch rather than your plants. The unfortunate thing is that you are creating an atmosphere perfect for pests to live and multiply in.
Mulch Can Damage Delicate Plants
Mulching around plants rather than putting it on top of them is crucial. If done incorrectly, mulching can potentially harm plants. This is due to the high amounts of nitrogen released as mulch decomposes. This is good for most plants but bad for small plants because they are sensitive to high nitrogen levels. Additionally, the plant may become more susceptible to certain illnesses if the mulch closely touches the plant stem.
Most mulches are efficient at keeping water. However, if a plant’s stem is always damp, fungal growth may develop. This can eventually cause a plant to die.
Over Mulching Can Kill Plants
Over mulching is a reality, and it may easily obliterate the topsoil. Mulches are great at holding onto the water; the more mulch there is, the more water it will hold. Anaerobic bacteria will start to take over if there is too much water in the soil. This is because the more water in the soil, the less oxygen it can hold. While anaerobic bacteria will ruin your mulch, the helpful bacteria, bugs, and other creatures like worms will leave.
When the mulch begins to smell and consolidate into layers, you will know that anaerobic bacteria have taken over. Most plants require oxygen for the growth of their roots; for this reason, aerating the soil is crucial. If you over-mulch, your plants may slowly rot away from the roots up. Be careful to only add mulch when it is required, rather than when you have extra mulch and are unsure what to do with it.
Mulch Causes Nitrogen Build-Up
When mulch is mixed with the soil, the nitrogen accumulation that occurs as it decomposes causes a serious issue. Nitrogen is beneficial for plants, but only in moderation; too much nitrogen in the soil can harm plants’ roots. Use the mulch solely on top of the soil and avoid mixing it in, as this can be particularly problematic if you frequently have a lot of young plants.
Mulches Contain Herbicides
The worst thing about using herbicides to eliminate undesired plants is that they will remain in the soil for years. If you are using your own mulch, you should be okay, but bring in someone else’s mulch or compost at their own risk. Since most herbicides simply pass through an animal’s intestines, animal excrement can also include herbicides. If you use this manure as mulch, you may be perplexed as to why your tomato plant’s leaves are suddenly curling and dying.
Weeds Can Go Through the Mulch
Most of the time, mulches are employed to keep weeds out of vegetable gardens, but this does not guarantee that weeds won’t appear on occasion. The majority of native weeds are very resilient and very impossible to eradicate. You will still see some weeds growing through organic mulches like hay, grass, wood chips, or straw if you use them as a mulch. The good news is that you will spend much less time de-weeding because weeds can be pulled out of mulch without difficulty.
Some Mulches Contain Weed Seeds
Your mulch will likely contain some weed seeds if it is made of hay, grass clippings, or straw. This isn’t a major issue, as birds and the wind will spread weed seeds throughout most of your garden. Wheat is used to making straw mulch, and you might find some wheat seeds in your mulch. I don’t think this is a significant disadvantage of mulching since weeds will appear occasionally, no matter what.
Mulch Dries Out Soil
Rubber, plastic, and decorative pebble mulches are inorganic mulches that will dry out the soil beneath them. Most of these mulches produce a slight greenhouse effect that dries out soil – but they’re good at keeping out weeds. If you’ve ever used plastic mulch, you’re well aware of how hot it can get and that no amount of watering will make a difference. As the inorganic mulch warms up, the soil and the plants will follow suit, which might be disastrous.
Therefore, avoid using plastic mulch if you intend to employ permaculture or maintain a sustainable homestead where you grow your own food. Doing so will eventually erode the topsoil.
You Can’t Grow Plants From Seeds in Mulch
The mulch must be removed if you want to develop plants from seeds because most seeds cannot penetrate the mulch. Place the seeds directly into the earth and mulch all around them after they have grown their first real leaves. Although most seeds lack the energy to break through the mulch, certain seeds will still germinate when covered in the mulch.
As you can see, there are a few disadvantages of mulching. However, they primarily rely on the type of mulch you use and how you apply it. Mulch can harm a plant if it comes into direct contact with the stem, so be careful to surround your plants with it rather than touching them.