When it comes to maintaining your landscape, mulching is one of the most important things you can do.
Mulching provides a host of benefits. Weed suppression, soil moisture retention, root insulation, and when properly installed, curb appeal, all make mulch a worthwhile endeavor. Despite the obvious benefits, if you don’t utilize it correctly, mulch can have the opposite effect. Here are some do’s and dont’s to keep in mind when mulching.
Do: Install at the Proper Depth
When mulch is put down at a rate of one cubic yard per 100 square feet or approximately 3″ deep, plants will benefit the most. Using too little mulch will leave plants vulnerable to freezing in the Winter and drying up in the Summer.
Don’t: Mulch Right Up to Tree Trunks
The most common mistake that homeowners and landscapers make is creating mulch “volcanoes”, particularly around trees and shrubs. We have all seen them. Mulch can be piled as high as 12″ against the trunk of the tree causing a host of problems; the worst of which include pests and diseases, the least of which include the fact that it’s just plain unsightly. The proper way to install a mulch ring is more like a donut than a volcano. Leave a 6″ gap around the base of the tree or shrub. This not only improves airflow but directs water to where it’s needed.
Do: Use It To Accent Your Home
Mulch has a lot of practical purposes, but its aesthetic value shouldn’t be overlooked. There are a variety of colors and textures to fit every need. Match the color of your black shutters with a dyed black mulch, or use a chunky bark mulch as a pathway through a large flower bed. You can even match your hardscape features like your walkway or patio to create a cohesive look.
Alternate options for mulching include gravel and crushed clamshells. While these options may be tempting because you need not replace them as frequently, it is a myth that they work better at suppressing weeds and can retain heat in the Summer months effectively baking the roots of sensitive plants. However, certain site conditions warrant the use of these materials and they can be great for locations where drainage and was out are a problem.
Do: Mulch At The Appropriate Time
The best time to install mulch is in early Spring after you’ve done your pruning, cutbacks, divisions, and new plantings. Finish off all your hard work with a nice edge and a fresh mulch application.