Mulching is an important part to the landscaping, and one of the most beneficial and easiest steps. There are many reasons to mulch around your plants. The first is to retain moisture. Mulch helps to slowly release water into the soil as you water. This allows for greater soil infiltration. This results in even soil moisture levels and a healthier root system. The mulch also helps the soil to keep the water that it does absorb by reducing the amount of moisture evaporating into the air. All in all this makes it easier for you because it reduces the amount of water needed to be applied.
Mulching helps to regulate the temperature of the soil surrounding your plants. It keeps soil cool in the summer, as much as 30 degrees cooler than the air temperature compared to bare soil or soil covered with stone. It also acts as a natural insulator in the winter. It allows for a slower freezing and more uniform temperature to make for less drastic temperature changes and prolongs the plant life.
Mulch can come in many forms. They can be organic or inorganic materials. Organic materials are ones in which they used to be a living plant form (i.e. bark nuggets, shredded wood chips, pine needles, and hay or straw). Inorganic materials include anything that would be considered man made. The natural or organic materials are best because they naturally decompose to add nutrients to the soil beneath. These nutrients are carried deep into the root systems by earthworms. These earthworms also act as a natural aerator.
Another added benefit to mulching is the reduction of weeds in your garden. Mulch helps to smother and manipulate the growth of unwanted plant material.
When applying your mulch it is crucial to leave a few inches of bare space between the trunk or base of your plant and your mulch. This is necessary to allow the needed oxygen to reach the root systems. An even layer of two to three inches is a proper thickness for you mulch. Sand or loose soil may need a little more than clay soils to allow for proper moisture and oxygen levels. You may be required to add more mulch to needed areas as natural decomposition occurs. Also, be sure to soak the soil before mulching if dry weather is the case.
We only recommend using natural mulches that are sourced locally. Our experience shows that colored mulches do not break down the same way that natural non-colored mulches do. We also recommend reviewing the landscape and choosing sections to plant ground cover plantings, effectively reducing the amount of mulch that needs to be added to your landscape. And finally, be cautious not to add mulch at a faster rate than it decomposes. To do so creates an accumulation of mulch in the landscape that effectively smothers plant materials.