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Mulch, When and How Much

August 24, 2017

Mulch is an easy way to improve the look of your flower beds while providing many benefits to the plants within them. The list of benefits is long and for this reason many Home Owner Associations will go as far as requiring it for those reasons.

Mulching provides a host of benefits to your landscaping efforts. When used properly mulch has the following effects on plants and soil. Mulches can prevent water loss from the underneath soil by minimizing evaporation? Mulching can minimize the infestation of weeds into a weed free flower bed and when applied properly can prevent weed germination altogether. Mulches help your law and landscaping in the spring, fall, and summer by keeping the soil cooler and preventing overheating.

During cold winters, mulch insulates the soil to help keep it warmer minimizing frost damage to the plants. Lawn maintenance mulches are a great idea in the summer that help protect trees and shrubs from physical damage from lawn equipment. In almost any situation, mulching is a good idea.

The best time to mulch new plantings is right after you plant them. Near older plants that are already established, mulch is recommended in early spring. At this time plants are starting to grow and summer weeds have not yet had a chance to germinate.

Mulch only needs to be replenished as it begins to decompose and depends on the different types of mulch material. Grass clippings and leaves decompose very fast and need to be replenished frequently. Inorganic mulches such as gravel and pebbles do not need replacement and the plants will fill in the bed area on their own; less and less mulch is required.

The amount of mulch to apply depends on the texture and density of the mulch material. Many wood mulches and bark mulches are made of finer particles and should not exceed three inches in depth. Too much fine textured mulches will suffocate plant roots by blocking air flow; causing the leave to turn yellow and resulting in poor growth.

Coarse textured mulches like pine bark nuggets allow great air flow through them and because of this can be laid up to 4 inches deep. Mulches made from shredded leaves and grasses are never recommended to be more than 2 inches thick because they can prevent water and air supply to plant roots.

Mulching is a practice that gardeners, landscapers, and homeowners all take part in. It’s an easy way to upgrade your yard and a smart idea to help protect and nurture your trees, shrubs, and plants. It’s also a great way to boost the curb appeal of your home.

There should never be more than 3 inches of shredded wood mulch applied after the installation of new plants. Some seem to think that more is better, this is not true of mulch. Exceeding 4 inches holds too much moisture and can cause plants to decline from rot and even die because the soil cannot breathe or soak up warmth from the sun to rid itself of excess moisture that may be present at times. Incidentally, the presence of mushrooms in a lawn or planting bed is totally due to decomposing wood matter. Whether mulch mixed with soil or an old tree stump’s roots that reside beneath the current lawn. Rotting wood and moisture have always caused mushrooms to grow. It is best if one is to cultivate mushrooms to plan ahead and cultivate those that are edible and cut down on the grocery bill rather than those that just make a mess in the landscape

What happens to all those additional layers of mulch you add to the beds because you like the “fresh” look it gives you yard? Perhaps first it would be best to ask yourself, what happened to the FIRST layer of mulch. The same thing that happens on the floor of the forest. Over time, every leaf, twig and fallen limb decomposes to replenish the soil available on the forest floor. The very same thing is happening in your planting beds…the mulch becomes soil.

Trees have a natural breathing ring (as well as many types of shrubs and other woody plants) that develops right at the point of their trunk where their “stem” and the soil meet originally upon their sprouting.

When you pull a weed, properly extracting it from the soil, it is going to deposit dirt on top of the mulch. The more soil that is mixed with the wood mulch, the faster it will decompose and return to its’ previous state as soil. Remember what comes from the soil returns to the soil; it is a natural revolution no one can prevent.

Try practicing using the right amount of mulch and do not try and overdo it for a look, consider the life of your trees and plants, they need mulch and they need to breathe too.

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