Spend enough time reading up on gardening and landscaping, and you’ll see one word pop up over and over again: mulch.
If you do enough digging – no pun intended – you’ll see that mulch is quite a useful tool. It protects the root systems of your plants, prevents weeds and topsoil erosion, and adds nutrients to your soil.
But like any tool, mulch will only be truly effective if it’s used correctly. That’s why we’re using this month’s blog space to explain how to use mulch.
When should I put down mulch?
We recognize that you might want to tackle your landscaping as soon as spring arrives, but if you’re reading this in late May/early June and haven’t yet put down mulch, don’t worry.
Your soil needs time to warm and adding mulch too early can keep that from happen. In addition, seedlings need a chance to get established. New plants might not be able to climb up from a thick layer of mulch. You can always add more mulch once your plants have emerged.
Add mulch in the summer to keep moisture in the soil, and in winter to provide insulation against the cold. If there’s mulch left over from the winter, remove it gradually as the weather warms. Removing it all at once can expose new growth to harsh late-season cold.
How much mulch should I apply?
When it comes to mulch, you can definitely have too much of a good thing. Adding too much can suffocate your plants. If you’re using finer mulch, apply a layer of one to two inches. Coarser mulch should be three to four inches deep.
How to use mulch, and where to use it
Before you put down mulch, make sure the area is free of weeds. Like we said above, the bigger the pieces of mulch, the deeper the layer should be. Smaller mulch pieces have an easier time getting into the soil. Use heavier or larger material on sloped areas, pathways or sections of your property that are subject to flooding.
Different crops, different weather, different mulches
Not every plant needs the same kind of mulch. Some varieties can help raise soil temperatures, which is good for plants like tomatoes and melons, but not so good for crops that thrive on cooler weather, such as greens and broccoli.
By the same token, the climate where you live can determine the type of mulch you should use. In places where the summer gets very hot, your plants will do better with a soil-cooling mulch such as shredded leaves.
But in cooler climates, mulches that retain moisture can harm your plants, leaving them over-saturated and susceptible to cold weather and pest damage.
Other tips for how to use mulch:
- When spreading mulch, make sure it doesn’t get too close to plant stems. Leave about half an inch of space to avoid rot and fungal attacks.
- If you plan on using lawn clippings as mulch, give it a day or so to dry in the sun before spreading it. Never use lawn clippings if you’ve been treating your grass with herbicides and pesticides.
- Spread nitrogen-rich fertilizer beneath your mulch. Some organic mulches – leaves and wheat straw in particular – can sap the soil of its nitrogen.
Still have questions on how to use mulch? Woodward Landscape Supply has the answers – and the mulch – you need.