How to Start Mulch Gardening in Your Yard

This article was written by Nicole Caldwell and first appeared in Martha Stewart Want a healthier garden ... with little effort? Start by returning it to a natural state. Mulch gardening is a soil-layering method that mimics a forest floor. It creates nutrient-dense soil that nourishes plants, controls weeds, and offers long-term results. In this article, I’ll get you started on creating a lush mulch garden of your very own.

In the natural world, soil is layered top-down with mulch, compost, untouched soil, and subsoil. Insects travel through these layers, aerating and feeding the soil while they do. When we till our gardens or add chemical fertilizers, we disrupt this fragile, symbiotic dance. Unprotected dirt can easily be washed away by rain or fried by the sun. It can take more than 500 years to create about one inch of topsoil; it takes far fewer to destroy it. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) projects that the world by 2050 will have only one quarter of the topsoil it had in 1960, and we could run out of the stuff 20 years after that. But you can do something about it!