Mulching is an important part of landscaping. It not only helps your plants by keeping them warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but it also helps your yard look tidier and uniform. There are many different kinds of mulch you can use to improve your yard.
What Kind of Mulch Should I Use?
There are many different types of mulch, from organic to inorganic. The most common type of organic mulch is shredded bark. You can find this at most home improvement stores. Other types include cocoa hulls, pine needles, lawn clippings, leaves, and compost.
Inorganic mulches include landscape fabric and landscape rock such as gravel or river rock. Organic mulches decompose over time, so they need to be replaced every few years. Inorganic mulches typically last much longer than organic ones do because they do not decompose over time.
How to Calculate the Amount of Mulch that You Need
If you calculate the amount of mulch or soil you need, keep in mind that a bag of mulch or soil usually covers about 3 square feet. Therefore, if you have a flowerbed that is 20 feet long and 4 feet wide, you would need to have at least 40 bags.
You can use a material calculator to calculate your flowerbed’s square footage by multiplying length times width. It is always better to have too much mulch on hand than too little.
Mulch is sold in the bag and typically covers up to 2 cubic feet. A bag of mulch usually weighs between 15-40 pounds, depending on the type of mulch used.
If you are using a piece of landscape fabric, then a good rule of thumb is that one cubic yard will cover 162 square feet with a depth of 3 inches.
What are the Benefits of Mulching?
Mulch saves water by reducing evaporation, keeps weeds down, moderates soil temperature, adds organic matter as it decomposes, and many organic mulches also help feed your plants.
Mulching involves applying a layer of material to the surface of an area of soil. Mulches can be organic (bark chips, leaves, or compost) or inorganic (gravel, permeable landscape fabric, or plastic sheeting/landscape fabric).
Mulches perform several vital functions, including:
- Weed control – they create a barrier to prevent sunlight from reaching the soil and suppress weed growth.
- Moisture retention – mulch reduce evaporation from the soil by creating a physical barrier; they also help the soil to retain moisture in wet conditions by improving aeration and drainage.
- Modification of soil temperature – mulches insulate the soil from extreme temperature fluctuations and lower the temperature of the topsoil during warm periods, which allows plants to grow for longer into the season.
- Nutrient retention/supply – depending on what type of mulch is used, it may supply vital nutrients to the soil as it decomposes over time.
- Decorative purposes – mulches are sometimes used purely for aesthetic reasons, with little regard for their functionality. For example, some gardeners use coloured gravel as a decorative top-dressing with minimal impact on weed suppression or moisture retention.
- Avoid applying mulch too thickly. Follow product instructions or err on the side of thin rather than thick – 3 inches is usually plenty. If you put down too much, the mulch will stop air from getting to the soil, and your plants can suffer or even die.
Factors to Take into Account When Selecting an Applying Mulch
Mulching is best done at the beginning of the growing season, in spring or fall. Wait until the soil warms up for spring mulching and dries out a little. After the soil is warm and dry, you can spread mulch over the top of your soil without damaging plants or burying them with wet, heavy mulch. By early summer, most annuals should be well above ground level and large enough for you to see where to apply mulch easily. Fall mulching also works well as it helps protect plants from frost heave during winter freezes.
How will you apply the mulch? Shredded bark or rubber mulch work best if you plan to use a blower. Shredded hardwood or cocoa bean hulls are easy to apply by hand.
Do you want a natural look or something more formal? Bark and shredded hardwood give a more natural appearance. Rubber mulch and cocoa bean hulls offer a more polished look.
If you’re using container plants, cocoa bean hulls are an excellent choice because they’re light and easy to work with. For all other types of planting, shredded bark, shredded hardwood, and rubber mulch work well.
If your plants need deep mulch layers to keep their roots cool in hot climates, shredded bark or shredded hardwood are good options. Hardwood also works well if you’re trying to suppress weeds in perennial beds or around trees and shrubs since it’s a little heavier than bark.
The use of the mulch
The first thing to consider when choosing mulch is what it will be used for and how it fits into your overall garden design plan. For instance, if you have a vegetable garden, you’ll want to use a mulch that is organic so it can break down and provide nutrients to your plants. If you’re creating a landscape bed or adding a path through your garden, you might want to use a more decorative mulch such as gravel, colored glass, or black lava rock.
Also, consider where the mulch will be applied before choosing what type to use. For example, if you want to prevent weeds from growing in an area that receives a lot of sunlight, a light-colored wood chip or sand would be best. Darker mulches absorb heat and could create an environment that encourages weed growth.
One of the most important things you can do for your garden is add mulch. Mulch is a protective covering of organic material. I use straw, leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, sawdust, shredded newspaper and cardboard, and anything else I can get my hands on.
The main thing is to keep it off the plants. They will rot if you pile it right on the stems of vegetables and flowers. A general rule of thumb is to spread a layer at least 2 inches deep around the bases of plants. If a plant has a large root system (as with trees), spread the mulch out in an even layer under the entire canopy.
Finally, there are many advantages to mulching your garden. For example, it reduces evaporation, so you don’t have to water as often or as much. It keeps weeds down, so there’s less weeding to do. Also, it keeps soil temperatures cool in summer and warm in winter, builds soil structure, and enriches the soil by slowly breaking down over time and adding nutrients that plants need. Mulching also prevents soil from splashing on leaves when it rains or your water, resulting in fewer disease problems for plants. And finally, mulch makes your garden look good.