Avoid These Mistakes When Applying Mulch To Your Gardens
Mulch is to the garden what cleaning out the closet is to your home; a spring right of passage.
There is no debating the many benefits mulch provides to your plants and gardens:
- Mulch insulates the soil helping to provide a buffer from heat and cold temperatures.
- Mulch retains water helping to keep the roots moist.
- Mulch keeps weeds out to help prevent root competition.
- Mulch prevents soil compaction.
- Mulch reduces lawn mower damage.
Plus, it just makes your gardens look nice and clean.
But, installed incorrectly, mulch can also bring a host of avoidable issues that can be detrimental to the hard work you have put into your landscape.
1. Using The Wrong Mulch
The old adage “you get what you pay for” applies here. Everybody loves a bargain but free mulch is often one that should be avoided. The ground up wood that many municipalities give away is no friend to the garden. If often contains weed seeds, pests and pesticide residues. It also, generally, does not look as good as processed mulch. When processed, most mulches go through an aging period. This process creates very high temperature which kills off insects and weed seeds, leaving a healthy, problem free mulch to be applied to gardens.
2. Not Mulching
As listed above, the benefits of applying a fresh layer if mulch to your garden are many.
To not apply mulch annually leaves your plants and garden vulnerable to problems. Roots can be damaged by hot and cold temperatures or dry out during times of low precipitation, soils become compacted because no fresh organic matter has been introduced, and weeds can grow unchecked, creating competition for the desirable plants and becoming a haven for insects and diseases. All of these issues can weaken plants and slow up their maturity and development. These issues may not be recognized for some time and by the time they are recognized, the damage is already done.
3. Making Mulch Volcanoes
Mulch volcanoes are the worst! This refers to the practice of piling mulch up against the truck of a tree or shrub so hat it resembles a volcano. I’m not sure who thinks these look good but the damage it can do to trees and shrubs is immense. Piling up mulch around the trunks traps in moisture and leads to rot. Once the wood starts rotting, it is a gateway for insects and fungi to invade the plant. It is important to keep mulch an inch or two away from the trunks of trees and shrubs.
4. Using Too Much Mulch
If some mulch is a good thing, a lot of mulch must be better, right? Well, no. Root systems need air to survive. Too much mulch also leads to too much water being retained which leads to rotting root systems. Keep the mulch level to around 2”. That is plenty of mulch to do the job. Also, do not forget to strip out old mulch if it is starting to pile up.
Using too little mulch means that there is not enough mulch to do the job it is intended to do. For instance, putting down not enough mulch means that weeds will not be prevented and root systems will not be insulated properly. As stated above, a 2” layer is just enough to do the job properly. One other note. Mulch is organic, meaning it will break down over time. Not putting enough mulch on your trees and gardens mean there will be even less in a few months.
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