Landscaping Essentials: Mulch

One of the single most important tools for keeping your landscape beautiful and healthy is the proper application of mulch. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most commonly neglected aspects of landscape maintenance. Mulching your flower beds, trees and shrubbery offers a wide variety of benefits, and can help you to keep your landscape design looking its best throughout the year. 

What is Mulch?

Available in a wide range of materials, mulch is a term used to describe any material spread around the roots of a plant. Organic mulch is made up of plant materials like straw, pine needles, bark, leaves and grass clippings. Inorganic mulch includes manufactured materials, stones, gravel and rock. 

Inorganic mulch typically does not break down over time, which means it doesn’t need to be replaced as often. The primary drawback of inorganic mulch, however, is the fact that because it doesn’t break down, it also doesn’t turn into nutrient-rich compost. 

Why is Mulch Important?

There are many reason why mulching is important for your garden and overall landscape design. Properly applied mulch helps to prevent soil erosion, inhibits the growth of weeds and lends a more finished look to your design. Mulch also slows the evaporation of moisture from plant roots, which allows you to water less often without sacrificing the health of your plants. 

Groundcover crops like clover and purslane can also be effective living mulches, with nitrogen-fixing properties to encourage healthy plant growth while still inhibiting the growth of weeds. Consult your landscaping professional to discuss living mulch options for your landscaping design, or to determine which alternatives would be better suited to your unique design.

Posted on behalf of Clayton Hulen, Green Brothers Earth Works


Choosing the Right Landscape Mulch

Landscape mulch serves several different purposes. It can add to the beauty of the landscape design by adding uniform background color around plantings. It also provides a functional service by helping lock in moisture around plantings and, when organic, adding nutrients to the soil. There are several different types of mulch available for use in landscaping. It can be helpful to understand the different types of mulch available and the differences between them. 

Shredded Bark
Often made from cedar bark, this is one of the most popular mulch products available. It is organic and provides the natural color of wood around your plantings. It is fairly slow to decompose, which can make it a good choice for its long life and low cost. 

Pine Bark
Another wood product used for mulch, this bark comes in larger, more solid chunks than the shredded bark. This wood mulch will have an even longer life than the shredded bark, but is not recommended for sloped areas because it can be easily washed away. It also is often available in a variety of colors. 

Cocoa Hull
This fine, chocolate colored mulch also comes with a delicious chocolate scent. It tends to be a bit more expensive than the bark mulches and can potentially be poisonous to pets. 

Artificial or Rubber Mulch
Recycled tires are used to create this long-lasting mulch. In addition to creating flower borders, it has become quite popular for use under playground equipment.

Services Provided By Landscape Suppliers

If you have decided to do some landscaping work on your home, the one thing you need to be sure of is that you have a reliable landscape supplier who is going to provide you with nothing but excellent service and high quality materials. Using higher quality landscaping materials offers a wide range of benefits over using cheaper ones that are going to continuously need to be replaced.

Landscaping materials include things like stone, soil, sands and mulch all of which should be of the highest quality in order to create the best look and function for your yard. Providing quality materials is the primary service expected of a landscape supplier but the best companies will offer excellent customer service as well.

Delivery is an expected requirement of any hardscape supplier due to the weight of the materials. Most will deliver directly to your home or work site and unload your products to exactly where you them. Charges and fees usually apply depending on your location. Having your materials delivered straight to you, on the day of your choice means that there is one less task that you have to take care of. Most companies also accept payment on credit as they understand a landscaping project can be costly and paying up front may not always be practical. 

The other service landscape suppliers can provide includes their connections with expert landscape designers and landscape architects. If you decide that you project was a little too ambitious to do alone after all, your supplier will often be able to refer you to an experienced local landscape professional.

Mulching How-To

It’s that time of year again and gardeners everywhere are getting the planting itch.  Among your plans for this growing season should be the addition of mulch to improve your soil’s health and keep the weeds out of your garden.  It also improves the view!

If you’ve never used mulch before, the process is very simple.  You’ll want to decide what kind of mulch you want first.  It varies in appearance, texture, and price.  These include pine mulch, cypress mulch, compost, bark, gravel, black plastic, grass clippings, and even shredded leaves.  You’ll receive different benefits from different mulches.  Plastic, for example, will keep the soil warm while bark chunks will aerate it.

Once you’ve decided what you’d like to use, it’s time to prepare the area.  Dig the beds, install borders or edging, and enrich the soil now, if you’re going to.  This is also the time to pull any early weeds and lay down landscaping fabric or plastic.

Depending on what kind of mulch you chose and how you obtained it – whether through a gardening center or from your own lawn – it may not be easily hauled to your garden spot.  Choose an easy means of transportation, whether in a wheelbarrow or bucket, and begin adding mulch to your chosen spot.

The ideal depth is up to you but aim for at least two to four inches.  Avoid shoving mulch right up against existing plants and tree trunks.  You don’t want to suffocate them.  For plants that will be added later, you can create basins in the mulch where they will be planted.  Otherwise, rake the area flat and you’re finished.

Mulch can also be used in the winter by covering pruned plants entirely with it.  This will insulate the plant from the cold.  The next spring, simply uncover it.  Remember, as well, that mulch doesn’t last forever.  You’ll need to renew organic ones every few years since they will have decomposed.  It’s fine to add new mulch on top of the old.

Mulching Matters: The Power of Pine

Mulching is a proven method for protecting and enriching the soil in your garden beds or around individual plants. Organic mulches are a popular choice for landscapers because they are readily available, easy to apply and more economical than non-organic mulches.

Pine mulch is one commonly used type of organic mulch. For this type of mulch, there is the option of using either pine straw or pine nuggets. Pine straw consists of weathered pine tree needles and is excellent for providing dense coverage and thwarting the growth of weeds. Pine straw mulch is not easily washed away by rain and requires yearly reapplication to remain effective. An appealing aspect of pine straw mulch is the look of the material; the rust colored needles are an attractive detail in garden beds and can enhance the overall aesthetics of any landscape.

Pine nuggets are chunks of pine tree bark. Compared to pine straw, this darker colored mulch provides looser coverage and can last for several years before a new application is needed. On the other hand, pine nuggets are more susceptible to erosion and you may find some mulch is washed away by rain water. Altogether, pine nuggets are a good choice in drier climate conditions where a more permanent mulching solution is desired.

These differences aside, both pine straw and pine nugget mulches provide all the benefits of organic mulches. Organic materials spread around the base of a plant decompose over time, discharging soil-enhancing nutrients and encouraging the growth of soil-friendly microorganisms. Organic mulches also promote healthy plant growth by keeping the soil aerated and protecting it from moisture loss and erosion. They insulate soil against adverse temperatures, reduce weed growth and keep soilborne diseases at bay. Additionally, because mulches clear the area around plants, they almost negate the likelihood of accidentally damaging foliage during mowing or trimming.

By choosing the right pine mulch for your gardening needs you can reap the benefits of mulching today!