Is Reflective Mulch Effective In Gardens?
Yes! You are right. I have been using reflective mulch in my garden since May 2007. My first experience with it was when I saw a commercial for it on TV. Since then, I use it every time I plant something new in the garden (and sometimes even every time).
What is reflective mulch?
Reflective mulch is any type of material used to reduce weeds or control insects. Some examples include gravel, crushed stone, wood chips, shredded paper towels and plastic bags. They all work well if they’re placed around plants so they don’t get eaten by other bugs or eat the roots of your favorite vegetables. There are many types of reflective mulches available including those made from recycled materials such as newspaper and cardboard.
How do I make my own reflective mulch?
You can buy it at most gardening centers, hardware stores and home improvement stores. If you want to DIY, there are several ways to go about making your own reflective mulch. Here’s how I like to do it:
1) Use a shovel or wheelbarrow to dig out some dirt and place it around the base of your tomato plants.
Then cover with soil.
2) Spread a layer of dirt about 1″ – 2″ thick over the entire garden.
3) Water it well and use your hands or a tamping tool to make the dirt as flat as possible.
Place some marbles or river stones on the dirt.
4) Cover it with plastic sheeting, cloth, newspapers, etc.
The weight of the mulch should hold it in place so you won’t need to weigh it down.
What are the benefits of using it?
It reduced the number of weeds, which means less work for me! It also conserves moisture and keeps the root zone of my plants warmer. This leads to more tasty vegetables to eat. It also cuts down on maintenance in the garden!
Is it ever a bad idea to use?
Yes, I don’t use it every time. Sometimes I use hay or grass clippings as a mulch around my plants. That way I don’t have to worry about standing on it to do my gardening and I can actually avoid stepping into my garden (aside from the space immediately around the plants of course) for weeks at a time if I choose to.
What else should I know about reflective mulch?
I have used both newspaper and cardboard as a mulch in the past with mixed results. Both can work well if applied thick enough, but I had to remove them both after a few heavy rains because they both tended to float away in the water! That’s why I prefer the plastic now…no muss, no fuss!
Does this mean you don’t have to weed at all?
Nope! It just means I have a lot less weeds. As long as I keep the mulch around my plants I rarely ever have any trouble with them. Occasionally, one will pop up here and there in my garden, but I just remove it quickly before it goes to seed.
What if I don’t want to use mulch?
That’s fine too! I just wouldn’t advise stepping into your garden or walking around in it without shoes unless you want to get a bunch of stickers in your feet. You can also cover it with an old sheet or some fabric instead of plastic too.
Sources & references used in this article:
Effect of Silver Reflective Mulch and a Summer Squash Trap Crop on Densities of Immature Bemisia argentifolii (Homoptera: Aleyrodidae) on Organic Bean by HA Smith, RL Koenig, HJ McAuslane… – Journal of Economic …, 2000 – academic.oup.com
Use of Aluminum-Foil and Oat-Straw Mulches for Controlling Aster Leafhopper, Macrosteles Fascifrons (Homoptera: Cicadellidae), and Aster Yellows in Carrots. by DP Setiawan, DW Ragsdale – The Great Lakes Entomologist, 1987 – scholar.valpo.edu
Reflective film mulches influences insect control and yield in vegetables. by JM Schalk, CS Creighton, RL Fery… – Journal of American …, 1979 – cabdirect.org