How to Properly Mulch Your Crops for Weed Suppression and Moisture Retention

Tolu Adebola

Tolu Adebola

Mulching has been a farming practice that dates back centuries, used by ancient civilizations to enhance soil fertility and protect crops. 


Today, mulching remains a valuable technique, highly regarded by farmers worldwide for its weed suppression and moisture retention benefits. As the demand for sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices grows, more farmers are embracing mulching. 


However, some may still be uncertain about the proper application and benefits of different types of mulches. 


In this guide, we will explore the various types of mulches and provide practical insights on how to use each method effectively for weed suppression and moisture retention.

Types of Mulches

Mulches come in a variety of types, each with its unique characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at some of the different mulch options available and get acquainted with their materials and attributes.

Organic mulches

Organic mulch

Organic mulches are nature’s gift to sustainable agriculture. Derived from various natural materials like straw, wood chips, leaves, grass clippings, and compost, they offer a plethora of benefits to the soil and crops they serve. Unlike their inorganic counterparts, organic mulches gradually break down over time, creating a beautiful cycle of nourishment and regeneration.


As these organic mulches decompose, they release essential nutrients into the soil, acting as natural fertilizers for the growing crops. This slow and steady nutrient release ensures a steady supply of food for plants, promoting healthy growth and robust yields. The enriched soil becomes a thriving haven for beneficial soil microorganisms, earthworms, and other organisms, all playing their part in enhancing soil health.

Inorganic mulches

inorganic mulching

Inorganic mulches, with their enduring nature, provide an exceptional long-term solution for weed control and moisture retention in farming. Unlike organic mulches that gradually break down over time, inorganic mulches remain largely unchanged, offering resilience and durability against environmental elements.


One of the most commonly used inorganic mulches is plastic. Plastic mulch sheets, usually made of polyethylene, create a barrier that effectively blocks sunlight from reaching the soil surface. This light deprivation hinders weed germination and growth, drastically reducing the need for labor-intensive and costly weed control measures.

Living mulches

Living mulches are a dynamic and innovative approach to weed suppression and soil improvement in farming. Instead of traditional mulches, living mulches use cover crops or low-growing plants that coexist with the main crop. 


These green companions create a thriving ecosystem that benefits the main crop by suppressing weeds and enhancing soil health. Cover crops act as natural allies, crowding out unwanted weeds and contributing organic matter to the soil. Their presence fosters a balanced and diverse environment that supports overall farm health. 


Proper management is essential to ensure the right balance between the main crop and cover crops, maximizing the benefits of this dynamic relationship. Embracing living mulches offers a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution for modern agriculture.

Biodegradable mulches

Biodegradable mulches offer a fantastic and sustainable solution for farming practices. These mulches are crafted from bioplastics or natural fibers and have the unique ability to break down over time. As they decompose, they enrich the soil with organic matter, benefiting soil health and fertility. Additionally, biodegradable mulches effectively suppress weed growth, reducing the need for excessive manual labor or chemical herbicides.


One of the most significant advantages of using biodegradable mulches is their eco-friendly nature. Unlike traditional plastics or synthetic materials, they leave no harmful residues or microplastics behind, making them a responsible choice for environmentally conscious farming.

Proper Usage of Mulches for Weed Suppression and Moisture Retention

It’s essential to understand that each type of mulch has its specific application methods. So, let’s delve into how different types of mulches can be put to use in our farming practices.

Organic mulches

Application: Start by laying down a layer of organic mulch, aiming for a thickness of about 2 to 4 inches. Ensure the mulch covers the soil around the base of the plants. However, be cautious not to pile the mulch directly against the plant stems, as this can create moisture-related problems and invite pests or diseases.


Weed Suppression: Organic mulches create a physical barrier that prevents sunlight from reaching weed seeds, inhibiting their germination. The thick layer also hinders weed growth by depriving them of essential light and air.


Moisture Retention: Organic mulches help retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation from the soil surface. They act as a protective layer, keeping the soil cool and preventing water loss during hot and dry periods.

Inorganic mulches

Application: Begin by carefully laying down the inorganic mulch material on the soil surface, making sure it covers the entire intended area. Whether it’s plastic, landscape fabric, or stones, ensure a thorough and even coverage. To prevent wind displacement and ensure stability, secure the edges of the mulch with soil or landscape pins.


Weed Suppression: Inorganic mulches create a physical barrier that inhibits weed growth by blocking sunlight. They are particularly effective in long-term weed suppression for perennial crops.


Moisture Retention: Inorganic mulches form an impermeable layer that reduces water evaporation from the soil. This helps maintain consistent soil moisture levels, especially in regions with hot and arid climates.

Living Mulches

Application: To use living mulches effectively, consider these key steps: carefully select suitable cover crops, plant them at the right time between main crops, maintain adequate spacing, manage competition, and balance nutrient availability. By following these guidelines, living mulches can thrive alongside main crops, supporting sustainable agriculture and a healthier farm environment.


Weed Suppression: Living mulches work as companion plants, competing with weeds for resources and preventing their growth. They act as living barriers, crowding out unwanted weed species.


Moisture Retention: Living mulches help retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation. The cover crops’ root systems also improve soil structure, enhancing water retention capacity.

Biodegradable Mulches

Application: Applying biodegradable mulches is a straightforward and essential process to maximize their benefits on the farm. To begin, carefully lay the biodegradable mulch on the soil surface around the plants, ensuring it adequately covers the root zones. This protective layer acts as a barrier, conserving soil moisture and deterring weed growth, contributing to healthier crops. After laying the mulch, gently water it to promote better contact with the soil. This encourages the mulch to settle into place, enhancing its effectiveness in suppressing weeds and retaining moisture.


Weed Suppression: Biodegradable mulches prevent weed growth by blocking sunlight and creating a barrier that hinders weed germination.


Moisture Retention: Biodegradable mulches reduce soil moisture loss by acting as a protective layer. As they decompose, they release organic matter, enriching the soil and improving moisture retention.


As previously stated, understanding the correct usage of mulch is vital to achieve the best possible results. However, if you find that despite using mulch, you are not obtaining the desired outcomes, it is advisable to seek the assistance of professionals. Seeking expert guidance can provide valuable insights and solutions to optimize your mulching practices and enhance the benefits for your crops.


Subscribe now for more fresh content.