I’m sure you’ve seen wood chips or bark around plants and in gardens, and maybe you’ve wondered what it is and why people use it so often.
The chips are known as mulch, and there are many different options for mulch as well as a number of benefits for using it.
What is mulch?
Mulch is a layer of material which is applied to the surface of your soil. Simple enough however, there are many ways to use it, from benefiting the growth of vegetables in your garden to adding some color to make some landscaping features stand out.
Join me as we learn some of the nuances of mulch and why it’s so good for your landscape.
Why use Mulch?
A big reason right now to use mulch, is that it helps prevent water from evaporating from your soil. This allows you to conserve more water while maintaining the health of your plants and trees.
Mulch can be used nearly anywhere in your landscape project, and when maintenance is done it should be replaced when necessary. Because mulch is almost always wood chips or bark, it will decompose over time. This is actually a benefit though, as it decomposes it enriches the soil under it with nutrients it may otherwise never get. Soil with high levels of sand can especially benefit from the decomposition of mulch because it not only gains nutrients, it also gains the ability to better retain water. Once again helping with water conservation.
A layer of hay or straw over a flower bed or garden bed can also help control weeds. Typically weeds will not be able to break through the layer of mulch. If you feel like you want a natural pest control use cypress or cedar chips. These trees contain natural chemicals and oils that deter insects. Cedar chips in particular can even kill insects like cockroaches. Though they may also be too heavy for smaller plants to grow from seed. In these cases it’s better to use established plants that can get transplanted.
Increase Curb Appeal with Mulch
Mulch can instantly add a splash of color and a nice finished look to your home. Mulch comes in a variety of colors, materials and sizes. Common organic materials include:
- Hard/softwood chips
- Evergreen needles
- Grass trimming
- Cut leaves
A dark wood chip mulch can contrast with flowers allowing them to stand out. You can also improve the theme and design of your landscape by adding red or brown bark to complement a brick wall.
Mulch can also be In-organic materials such as:
- Lava rock
- Crushed stone/pebbles
Stones and pebbles can be used to make walkways and paths. These rarely need to be replenished making them cost effective as they’re a one time investment of material and labor. Although the stone may look appealing, it’s best not to use it on trees and other plants. The stones retain heat which can cook roots and kill your plants during hot days.
For play areas, you can use pulverized rubber as mulch. This is inexpensive and usually made from recycled tires. It can prevent children from injuring themselves during play time while accenting other parts of your landscape and architecture. Rubber mulch doesn’t decompose like organic mulch, making it a poor choice for any other parts of your landscape. Its uncertain if rubber can leach toxins into soil as well, for that reason we recommend you keep it away from any plants.
When Should I Replace My Mulch?
The tell tale signs you should replace or replenish your mulch is if you begin to notice signs of decomposition, discoloration or soil erosion. Try to maintain your organic mulch 2-3 inches deep. This will provide you with the best results. You may have to replenish every year or every other year depending on the amount of mulch, the weather, foot traffic and watering habits. Usually you won’t need to replace your mulch for 5-6 years.
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