Why you Should be Mulching?Why you Should be Mulching?
Mulch guide – Just like Mother Nature
When you think about it mulching is really nature’s idea. Take a nature hike and you’ll see fallen leaves, needles, twigs, pieces of bark, withering flower blossoms, fallen fruit and berries, and other organic material.
Following nature’s lead can help your garden too! Adding mulch around your trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables will keep plants healthy and drastically reduce the amount of time spent weeding, watering, and fighting pests.
Adding a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch around your plants will keep them healthy and reduce landscape maintenance. When mulch is applied correctly, your plants and soil will gain many other benefits as well:
- Conserves soil moisture that can be lost through evaporation
- Keeps the soil well-aerated by reducing soil compaction that results when raindrops fall
- Reduces water runoff and soil erosion
- Prevents soil and possible fungi from splashing on foliage, which reduces the risk of soil-borne diseases
- Maintains a more uniform soil temperature; warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer
- Prevents trees and shrubs from damage by lawn equipment
- Improves soil structure: as mulch decays, the material adds nutrients to the soil
There are two basic types of mulches: organic and inorganic. Both types have advantages and disadvantages
- Organic: Organic mulch is made out of natural substances such as bark, straw, leaves, grass clippings, and pine needles. Because it is natural, organic mulch decomposes over time, making the soil rich by releasing small amounts of nutrients and organic matter. Since it decomposes, you’ll need to add to organic mulch continuously to maintain a 2- to 4-inch depth. Organic mulch attracts insects, slugs, worms, and birds that eat it.
- Inorganic: Inorganic mulches such as gravel, pebbles, rocks, black plastic, and rubber do not attract pests and do not decompose, so they don’t have to be replaced. This type of mulch is great for weed control, but you have to be careful that it allows water, nutrients, and air to flow to plants. You may have to add to inorganic mulch to keep it looking full from time to time.
How to apply mulch
For plant beds: Before applying any type of mulch, it is best to weed the area. Spread a layer of mulch over the entire plant bed. Keep mulch 2 to 3 inches away from stems of woody plants. This will prevent decay caused by wet mulch and rodent damage during the winter. Keep mulch 6 to 12 inches away from the walls of buildings.
For trees: Newly planted trees require a 3- to 4-inch diameter circle of mulch. Maintain this for at least three years. Do not pile mulch against the trunk. For established trees in lawns, create a circle of mulch about 2 feet in diameter for each inch of trunk. Try to apply the mulch at least 6 inches beyond the drip line of the tree.
How much mulch
The old adage, if some is good, more is better, doesn’t work with mulch. Excessive application of mulch can result in plant roots growing in mulch rather than in soil. The amount of mulch to apply really depends on the texture and density of the mulch material.
- Wood and bark: Mulches made from wood and bark should not be more than 2 or 3 inches deep. Excessive amounts of this type of mulch can suffocate plant roots, resulting in poor growth.
- Coarse-textured mulches: Pine bark and other coarse mulches allow good air movement and can be as deep as 4 inches.
- Organic Mulches: Grass clippings and shredded leaves should never be deeper than 2 inches because these materials tend to mat together restricting water and air supply to roots.
When to Apply Mulch
The best time to mulch new plantings is right after you plant them. Around established plants, it is best to apply mulch in the spring after the soil has warmed. If you mulch too early in the spring it will delay soil warming and plant growth.
How often mulch needs to be replenished depends on the mulching material. Grass clippings and leaves decompose very quickly and need to be reapplied frequently. Inorganic mulches like rocks and gravel rarely need replenishing. As plants grow and fill in the bed areas, less and less mulch is needed.
Types of Mulch – Improve your garden