Be it hot drying summer temperatures or occasional winter cold snaps, mulch is a great way to protect the foundation of your landscape: Its roots! In addition to its water-conserving abilities (mulch can reduce water evaporation from soil surface, reducing your watering needs by as much as 25-50%), mulch also acts like an insulation blanket: In the summer it helps cool soil temperatures, while in the winter it helps keep plant roots warm.
What are some of the other benefits of mulching your landscape?
Weed control is one of the most important benefits. While mulch won’t keep all the weeds out of your landscape, it will reduce their numbers by keeping weed seeds from successfully germinating. The fewer weeds that germinate each season, the fewer there are to spread more seeds.
While mulch isn’t a fertilizer it does break down as an excellent soil conditioner. As mulch slowly decomposes, it helps feed the beneficial microbes in the soil, which in turn break the organic matter down into nutrients for your plants. It also helps loosen and aerate the soil as it breaks down into the soil. But, that decomposition is also why you need to replenish mulch seasonally. Mulch also helps keep existing nutrients in the soil from being leached away through irrigation or rainfall.
Mulch tip:Take care not to pile mulch up against the crowns or stems of your plants as it can lead to problems with decay or pests. Same goes for trees: Keep all soil or mulch pulled back from the base of tree trunks.
Looking to attract more beneficial earthworms to your soil? Add mulch! The added organic matter provided by the mulch helps create a more hospitable environment for earthworms, which in turn greatly improve your soil quality and natural nutrient availability.
From an aesthetic standpoint, mulch gives your landscape a top-notch “finished” look. If your landscape is looking a bit worse for wear after the hot summer months, applying a fresh layer of mulch will refresh the look of your entire property.
Mulch tip:Do you grow water sensitive plants such as lavender? Expanded shale or gravel can used as a top-dressing mulch for moisture sensitive plants, as they repel excess moisture away from the plant crown and root zone.
There are many different types of mulch available in a variety of colors. From shredded red cedar to dark brown hardwood and even pine straw, there is a type of mulch to match the style of your home and garden.
- Shredded bark mulches are the most commonly available and work will in most garden situations. They tend to decompose slowly and pack down well for uneven areas such as slopes. Bark chips, on the other hand, tend not to stay put as easily and will more readily wash out of place in a rain or slide off a slope.
- Pecan shell mulch may be more available in your area, and if so, makes a good mulch or material for natural pathways. Pecan shell mulch has a unique look that is especially attractive in wooded areas or shady landscape beds.
- Has someone offered you a load of fresh wood chips to use as mulch? This may be tempting, but realize that as this is usually fresh wood, it will tend to pull a fair amount of Nitrogen out of your soils in order to feed the decomposition process. This can leave your landscape plants chlorotic and in need of additional fertilization.
Mulch tip:Pine straw mulch is perfect around plants that prefer acidic soil and it works nicely for creating natural pathways through gardens or around raised beds.
It’s important to put down fresh mulch at least twice per year. Spring and fall are optimal times to refresh your mulch. We feel that mulching is an important part of both spring and fall clean ups. Growing veggies in raised beds? All our tips still apply, so don’t forget to add mulch to your raised landscape or vegetable beds.