Mulch 101

With spring weather approaching us in but a few short months, many of our weekend chores will shift outdoors. As your grass turns greener and your trees bloom back to life, the time for spring yard work has arrived.

And although you may feel like you have matters well in hand, there is one aspect of landscaping that is often overlooked or performed incorrectly: Mulching. Spring mulching will help keep your trees healthy and give your yard a uniform look. However, it is important to follow proper mulching techniques to avoid inadvertently causing greater health problems for your plants and trees.

What is Mulching?

Simply put, mulch is applying any material, organic or inorganic, over the surface of the soil as a covering. The types of mulch can range in variety from the traditional and most commonly used shredded or chipped bark to things like compost, grass clippings, straw, shredded leaves, stone and synthetic rubber mulch.

Advantages of Mulching

Aside from giving your yard consistency, mulch helps your trees and other plants in a variety of ways:

  • Insulating the roots: Mulch keeps the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, which helps keep the roots of your trees at a stable temperature.
  • Water management: By reducing evaporation, mulch helps keep your plants hydrated, which means you can cut down on watering.
  • Weed prevention: A layer of mulch helps control the growth of weeds, which can sap the soil of its nutrients.
  • Improved soil conditions: As organic mulch breaks down over time, it adds nutrients back to the soil. This recreates a more natural environment for your trees.

Mulching for Flower Beds

While commonly used in flower beds, mulch is actually the improper material and does not give your plants the nutrients they need. By instead using compost to fertilize a garden, there will be more nutrients near the roots of the plants. They will have an easier time absorbing these nutrients, and therefore will grow stronger. As well, the nutrients will be released over a longer period of time. This means that months (or even years) later, the plants will still be able to thrive in the enriched soil.

Common Mulch Mistakes

Mulch is a great way to help keep your lawn and gardens looking fresh, but it is important to remember that using improper techniques can lead to much greater problems. Common mulching mistakes include:

  • Mulching Annual Flower Beds
  • Too Much Mulch (Such as “Mulch Volcanoes”)
  • Using Wood Chips (They are not mulch!)
  • Excessively mulching at the base of a tree (it needs to breath)

It’s too easy to shovel huge fork loads over plants.  Don’t cover perennials, or you may smother them. This is especially true for shallow-rooted species. This is one reason to not mulch perennial beds too early in the spring before shoots emerge.  Just as thick mulch will prevent weeds, it will prevent these plants from growing too!  

Important Mulching Tips

Proper mulching is especially important for plants under stress, or newly planted ones without extensive root systems.  To correctly apply organic mulches, start six inches from the base working out to the desired diameter. Depth should start at one inch at the inner circle, increasing to no more than four inches (two inches for clay soils) at the outer edge of the circle. Final depth may be reduced if landscape fabric is placed under the mulch.

Mulch Alternatives

Some common alternatives to mulch include but are not limited to: Rock, Rubber and Landscape Fabric. While there is nothing wrong with any of these alternative solutions, none will provide all of the benefits that a solid mulching job will for your property.

We hope you have been able to gather a general idea of what you need to begin mulching your property, and as always give us a call at (972) 620-9560 with any of your landscaping needs.

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