Tips for Successful Mulching Application

Making mistakes when mulching can keep your soil from reaping benefits such as conserving moisture, suppressing weeds, reducing erosion and decreasing water runoff. Landscape designers and researchers provided their best tips for making the most of mulch in your yard.

Do use it as an accent.

Mulching can help create healthy lawns but also has an aesthetic value. Choose colored mulch that complements the exterior colors of your home in the brick, stone, stucco and siding. For example, brownish/red pine mulch goes well with brick houses. Using a dark mulch can contrast with flowers, improving your landscape design. Mulch also can be used to enhance your landscape theme and setting.

Do look at your entire landscape.

Some landscapes have big expanses of mulch with a few shrubs poking around. You want to design your landscapes so your shrubs cover all of the soil and you have complete vegetative cover. Then apply mulch to them, to control moisture.

Do clean it out.

If re-mulching a bed, remove some of the old mulch. Sometimes mulch has been added to the beds three to four times, so we recommends taking out some of the mulch that has built up over time.

Do tweak the thickness.

When you get close to an edge, such as pavement, stepping stone or tree trunk, thin it out. There’s no benefit in having a pile of mulch next to a tree truck. You want to taper it down,

Do try out a different mulch.

There’s an array of textures, starting with options such as pine straw and shredded hardwood bark. If you’re looking for a new look and need to update your mulch, try new options.

Don’t ignore bare soil.

Researchers are finding mulching has significant environmental benefits. Having bare soil on your property will cause erosion and sediment runoff. Mulching can help control erosion. Research found that bare soil lost about five times as much sediment as soils covered with mulch.

Don’t use too little or too much mulch.

About 3 inches of mulch is recommended for beds, mulching twice a year. Mulching with the right amount each time will help fend off weeds and conserve moisture, which will reduce your need to irrigate. One exception is if you use pea gravel mulch or inorganic mulch. Then, you could get away with using just 2 inches. Another factor is if you have a bed of herbaceous plants that may be too small for 3 inches of mulch.

Don’t forget your trees.

Place mulch around the base to protect the trunk, especially if you have younger trees. Mulch rings makes a protective area to reduce threats from other plants and keep mowers away.

Don’t assume you need something underneath.

Some people may want to use plastic or geotextiles, such as landscape fabric, to separate certain mulches, such as inorganic stone mulch, from the soil. There’s a belief that black plastic will keep weeds down. But adding a layer of plastic or landscape fabric could cause more water runoff and keep your garden from having a clean, streamlined look.

If you use an organic mulch that will break down, like shredded hardwood bark, avoid landscape fabric because you want the mulch to be in contact with the soil to improve it. Plastic or landscape fabric could prevent water and rain from reaching the soil, and actually could increase runoff. Weeds also could grow into the landscape fabric.

If the mulch shifts around or is replaced, the plastic or landscape fabric could show through. It looks hideous when you have plastic or landscape fabric being exposed under the mulch.

Don’t use bad mulch.

The biggest pitfall is getting your mulch from an unreliable source. For example, mulch could be delivered with noxious weed seeds in it because it was stockpiled next to a field of weeds. You could be paying for that for a long time.


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