Mulch not only adds a little beauty to your lawn and garden, but it’s also an essential item for maintaining healthy, happy trees and plants. Landscaping mulch keeps soil moist, provides nutrients, deters weeds, and acts as insulation in cold temperatures. But, like all things, mulch needs to be properly maintained to do its job.
Select Your Mulch
There are a number of different mulch types. First, there is organic and inorganic. Grass clippings, compost material, wood chips, straw and leaves are all types of organic mulches. Grass clippings and similar materials decompose more quickly, and will need to be replenished more often. For something that is longer lasting, consider tree-based mulches such as wood chips, shredded bark mulch or cedar mulch. Inorganic mulches include rock, rubber mulch and landscape gravel. Both styles of landscape mulch can be found at a local landscape supply store (and at Fra-Dor).
Check out our article “All You Need to Know About Garden & Landscape Mulch” for more information on the different types of mulch and other details. Also, Better Homes & Gardens has a list of some of the best mulches.
Remove Old Mulch?
It can be tempting to simply add another layer of mulch to an existing bed, but not so fast. Depending on how deep the existing mulch is and how long you’ve had it there, adding another layer can cause existing layers to stop decomposing. It can also cause rot which can could lead to plant death.
Most landscapers recommend having no more than 3 inches of mulch down. Strip off as much of the old mulch as possible and add an inch or so of fresh mulch. If you start with stripped beds and add one inch a year, you’ll only have to strip every three years.
As for disposing of old mulch, some people suggest adding it to your compost and letting it continue to break down so you can reuse it in a different way. Chop it down as much as you can before adding it, so it can break down a little quicker.
Now, it’s also important to mention that many people don’t believe in removing old mulch, but rather adding to it each year to keep it fresh. Mulch can be expensive and you certainly want to get its full life out of it. If you go this route, just be on the look out for any fungus or mold growth, and any changes in smell. Those are two big signs of rotting mulch. Also, rake and turn the mulch to get some air in there, and add some new mulch to the top to finish it off.
Get Rid of Weeds
This one is pretty simple: Get rid of any weeds before mulching. Mulch actually helps keep weeds from growing, but you need to get rid of existing ones first.
Apply Mulch Directly to Plant Beds
Mulch is great for garden and plant beds, but it certainly not good for grass. When mulching apply it directly to the space you’re working on. If you dump it on your lawn and then spread it, it can damage or kill grass. Mother Nature Network has a good article with tips for getting rid of weeds.
Turn it Up
Once you lay the mulch your work isn’t done for the season. Every couple months you should be turning your mulch since the top layer will naturally compact with the soil. Mixing and turning mulch can help deter mold growth under the top layer, allow it to breathe and help water flow through more easily.
Are your a gardening and landscaping beginner? Check out our “Simple Landscaping Ideas for Beginners” article to help you get started in your yard today!