Twig Tips by Jodie

Posted on May 17, 2017 by jo


To mulch or not to mulch, that is the question.  Sounds a little like Shakespeare.  Ok, not quite.  But anyway, it is a question we ask ourselves in the spring when contemplating our gardening to-do lists.  I'm going to try to help you make that decision by giving you a little info about mulch.

First, it is helpful to know exactly what the purpose of mulch is.  Mulch can 1) prevent weed growth 2) conserve soil moisture 3) cool the soil surface and stabilize soil temps  4) reduce heaving  5) add organic matter to the soil improving soil health  6) reduce soil erosion on slopes and 7) improve the aesthetics of a landscape.  Different kind of mulches do different things.  There are organic mulches which include wood products, pine needles and composts.  Inorganic materials are various types of stone, brick chips or recycled rubber tires.  They are usually more costly and are used in combination with weed barriers of some sort.  They do not offer any soil-improving capabilities.

Now, a little about what NOT to do, mulching NO-NO's, so to speak.  This is important for your plants' health so if you care about them you will take some notes.  First of all, NO mulching deeply around trees.  We call these mulch volcanoes and they cause a myriad of problems, including rotting of the bark, shallow roots, insect damage...I could keep going.  DON'T DO THIS! I know you are trying to make things look pretty, and maybe you are even trying to help your tree by preventing "mower blight" but just remember, the road to H E Double Toothpicks is paved with good intentions.  Tree killing is a sin (in my book, anyway).  The other mulching no-no is along the same lines.  Not only can mulch get too deep around trees, it can get too deep around your other plants too.  2-3" is the maximum depth needed for mulch to do its job.  More than that is over-kill....literally.

The other BIG mulching no-no is putting a weed barrier between the organic mulch and the soil.  If you do this, you will live to regret it.  The mulch breaks down on top of the barrier, creating a great medium for weeds to grow in.  Then when you want to install new plants, or re-mulch or even pull weeds that are going to come up, it is a HUGE pain. Just take my word for it.  HUGE pain.

So, if it is that freshly-mulched look that you are going for, remove some of the old stuff, stir it up and turn it over before adding a light layer on top ...don't just pile 3" of new stuff on unless you want to end up replacing some plants too.  Spend your money on something else besides a lot of new mulch, like say, a new tree!

Off to hug my tree (which BTW, does not have a mulch volcano around it)  - Jodie

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