Mulch can be an important addition to any yard or garden; however, it must be applied properly and strategically. Even many experienced landscapers will end up using too much or applying it incorrectly. This can inadvertently inhibit plant growth and cost you both time and money.
Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of mulch and how to use it properly.
What Is Mulch, and What Are Its Benefits?
Any product applied to the topsoil of a planting bed can be considered mulch. Mulches may be organic (made from plant- or animal-derived materials), or inorganic (gravel, stone, or rubber). Both types have advantages for your garden.
The best type of landscaping mulch may vary according to the specific problem you are trying to correct. When used properly, different types of mulch can:
- Reduce moisture loss: Mulch helps traps moisture in soil, keeping it from evaporating. This is important in all environments — not just drought-prone areas. When soil retains more moisture, your plants are healthier, and erosion and runoff are limited.
- Suppress weed growth: Adding a layer of mulch to your topsoil makes it harder for nuisance plants to get the light and nutrients they need to thrive. This means less competition for the plants you do want and a decreased reliance on chemical weed killers.
- Maintain a more even soil temperature: Organic, or plant-derived, mulches can help insulate soil from temperature extremes. The soil is shaded during the summer months.
- Add nutrients to soil: Organic mulches decompose over time, adding valuable nutrients to your soil and attracting earthworms and other beneficial insects.
- Increase soil organic matter: Organic mulches increase soil organic matter, improve the soil structure and improve the nutrient-holding capacity of the soil. And all this is good news for your plants.
Mulch can also have aesthetic benefits, enhancing the look of your property. If you are looking for colored mulch, make sure to choose a product made with natural, non-toxic dyes.
There is no one best mulch to use for landscaping — different types excel at different things. For example, natural, planting or bark mulches work best to improve the soil, whereas colored mulches are great for inhibiting weed growth and holding color all season long.
How to Use Mulch for Landscaping
A few general principles apply when using any type of mulch in your garden:
- Wait until the soil has had a chance to properly warm up — usually in mid-to-late spring — before applying mulch to your garden.
- Check your mulch in the late summer to ensure it is properly retaining moisture. If your soil is too dry, it may be necessary to add more.
- Don’t use too much mulch. Finer mulches should be limited to a one- or two-inch layer on top of your soil. Coarser materials should not exceed three or four inches.
- Leave a mulch-free ring of an inch or two around the stems of any plant, shrub or tree.
- Always make sure your soil is healthy and weed-free before applying any type of mulch.
- Don’t make a mulch “volcano” around trees. A 2” to 3” deep layer of mulch is typically good.
Looking for the best mulch for landscaping? Zeager Bros., Inc. sells three proprietary blends of organic mulch for use in your lawn or garden. Check out our product pages or contact a sales representative directly for assistance.