A fresh, clean mulching job not only improves the appearance of a property, but it also provides a foundation for healthy, happy, flourishing plants. When used as a protective layer mulch guards against variations in soil temperature, traps moisture in the soil, and fends off weed growth. Because of this combination of benefits, mulching should be on every gardeners and landscapers to-do list.
Mulch can be divided into two groups–organic and inorganic. Organic mulches are usually a bi-product of other industries and decompose over time. Inorganic mulches do not decompose quickly and may remain in the environment for an indefinite period of time.
From grass clippings to compost to plastic to dead leaves, many organic materials can be used to mulch. However, some of the longest-lasting mulches are the tree-based mulches you’ll find at a landscape supply store. Here are a few of the most popular ones.
This is a popular option for its impressive staying ability on slopes or hillsides, and its cost-effectiveness. Shredded mulches have a natural look about them and work well around flowers. Bark mulch is available in natural or dyed varieties and is slightly acidic in nature. This means that it takes longer to decompose and does not need replacing as often as other types of organic mulch. Bark mulches are best used around trees, shrubs, and in perennial beds.
Leaves should be shredded or composted before applied as mulch as they will not mat down as easily as whole leaves and are less likely to blow away. Infected leaves with scab, leaf spot, or anthracnose should be disposed of instead of used for mulch. Leaves act as a good mulch but would not be the best choice during the winter.
When spread in thin layers across vegetable and perennial beds, grass clippings can make a great mulch. Each layer of grass clippings should dry before other layers are added and applying a thick layer of grass clippings will lead to matting. Clippings that originate from lawns that have been treated with herbicides or insecticides should not be used. Grass clippings do not last long and are best used in vegetable gardens or annual flower beds.
Composted animal manure is an excellent choice for new planting beds as it improves soil quality and adds nutrients. However, it should not be used in garden beds as it can harm plant roots. Caution should be used when using manure. It should be well composted prior to use as mulch to eliminate potential disease organisms that may be present.
Obtained by passing tree and shrub trimmings through a mechanical trimmer, wood chips are available from local arborists or municipal waste sites. This material adds nitrogen to the soil as it decomposes and is best used around trees, shrubs, and in perennial beds.
Inorganic mulches can be easy to maintain but they don’t add nutrients to the soil. Often, they are combined with an organic mulch to incorporate nutritional value to the soil. Here are some inorganic mulch options:
A polyethylene film is impermeable. Water and nutrients cannot pass through and this is best used along rows of vegetables to warm the soil during the spring. However, plastic film deteriorates when exposed to sunlight and is not a good choice for long-term use.
A better option for long-term use is landscape fabric which allows air and water to pass through but suppresses weeds. Landscape fabric is often used in conjunction with organic mulches.
Volcanic rock, buckshot, crushed gravel, or marble chips are common stone mulches. Stones do not retain moisture and can cause stress on plants when heat reflects off of them.
Rubber mulch is made of recycled tires. It can look fancy and come in all sorts of colors. But rubber does not break down and will not add nutrients to any garden. This mulch will remain in the soil indefinitely and is used primarily for safety and aesthetic reasons.
When choosing a landscape mulch, you should consider the time of year, the purpose of mulching, and the aesthetic appearance you want to achieve. Mulch, whether organic or inorganic, can be both protective and decorative, but the application is important.
Applying mulch during the growing season can be beneficial. Not only can it reduce the amount of work in gardening, but it can help produce healthier plants. Mulching around new plants, especially those planted in the fall, will provide protection for the roots during the winter. To avoid over-mulching, mulch should only be added as needed to the original depth of the first application.
When applied in winter months, mulch will lessen the possibility of plants being damaged by the ground during freeze/thaw cycles. The mulch will allow the soil to warm up gradually and prevent damage to plants that emerge before temperatures are warm enough to sustain themselves. Certain plants, like roses and tender perennials, benefit from an application of winter mulch. But this mulch should be removed in spring when new plant growth is observed.
Trees & Shrubs
About 2-3 inches of mulch should be applied around the base of trees and shrubs to avoid root suffocation. Excess application will result in over-mulching and create moist conditions. This will promote the growth of pathogens and create a habitat for insects and pests.
Applying mulch to a vegetable garden will conserve moisture, better control weed growth, and protect plants from splash erosion. It is best to apply after the soil has warmed and by using small textured mulch or composted materials.
Fra-Dor offers various types of mulches. It is priced per yard and we deliver. If you need much but are uncertain about how much, a handy supply calculator will help determine how many cubic yards are needed. Whether you need mulch for flower beds or gardens, or for your home or business, we have high-quality options. And if you aren’t sure which type of mulch is right for your project, give us a call and we can guide you toward a product that will serve you best.