Your Guide to Mulching
Mulch is a gardener’s best friend. It helps protect your garden bed against extreme temperatures and block the growth of weeds. Mulch captures moisture and nutrients for your plants while providing a great aesthetic as well.
Mulches come in many different forms, and some can even be found in your own home. Here is everything you need to know about mulch and why you should begin mulching today.
Benefits of Mulch
Mulch is used for multiple applications. Gardeners use it to insulate the soil and protect it from extreme temperatures and seal in moisture. Mulch also blocks weeds from growing and prevents soil compaction. It also provides a well-maintained look for your garden bed.
Types of Mulch
There’s a wide variety of mulches to choose from. Depending on what is locally available, appearance, and quality, there are dozens of options. Mulches can typically be broken down into two categories: organic mulch, and inorganic mulch.
Organic mulches are natural products of leaves, trees, and other plants. These mulches are organic as they can naturally decompose. The advantage of organic mulch is that you’re nurturing the soil naturally. The downside of organic mulch is that it must be replenished regularly. The following are a few examples of organic mulches:
- Compost breaks down quickly to improve the soil. A compost bin can be the perfect DIY project as well. The only downside of compost is that it breaks down fast and can contain weed seeds.
- Shredded or chipped bark is a more attractive option that breaks down slowly and resists compaction. Our personal favorite is Cedar all bark mulch.Hardwood bark is another option but breaks down quickly. This type of mulch also needs to be maintained to prevent sour mulch and nuisance fungi.
- Shredded leaves or grass clippings can be chopped and used as mulch. Leaf mulch is recommended around garden beds, trees, and shrubs. Grass clippings should be spread thinly around vegetable and perennial beds and then turned into the soil at the end of the growing season. Avoid thick layers or the material will mat. You should also avoid materials that were contaminated with herbicides or insecticides.
- Straw or hay is an inexpensive way to mulch. However, they decompose quickly and are known to attract rodents.
- Pine needles are another option. They break down slowly and stay in place as opposed to other mulches.
- Cocoa Chips are popular for their color and attractive scent. They’re lightweight and suitable for all planting areas. Keep in mind to only lay one inch down and don’t water excessively as they decompose quickly. It’s also not suitable to use if you have pets as chocolate is fatal for animals.
- Other alternatives can be spent hops, cocoa hulls, ground corn cobs, and coffee grounds.
Inorganic mulch doesn’t decompose and doesn’t need to be replenished often. These types of mulches consist of rocks and other man-made materials such as fabric. These types of applications are used more for aesthetic and weed control. Here are the following inorganic mulches:
- Black plastic mulch keeps the soil warm in the spring, reduces water loss, and is easy to use. Plastic mulch isn’t permeable, making it difficult to water. It tends to break down in direct sunlight making the undersoil very hot during the summer. It’s recommended to use plastic mulch in shaded areas or blended with another mulch.
- Silver plastic mulch is great for warming soil in the spring but doesn’t defend against weeds. Plastic mulch creates hotter soil during the summer making it unbearable for pants away from shaded areas.
- Crushed stone and gravel are permanent solutions for mulching trees and shrubs. However, these mulches are expensive and hard to move. Weed seeds can also make their way into the stones. To prevent this, add a layer of landscape fabric underneath the stones.
- Landscape fabric blocks weeds while allowing air, fertilizer, and water to move through and get to the soil. Made to resist decomposition, the fabric helps retain soil moisture. Pair the fabric with an organic mulch such as wood chips to let your plants receive nutrients while blocking weed growth.
Is My Mulch Going To Float?
Hardwood mulch may be the least expensive option for freshening up your beds, however, it can also float during heavy rains. Shredded mulch options such as Cedar All Bark is bark stripped from cedar trees. It has a hair-like texture with larger chunks mixed in. It holds its color, packs well to stop weeds, and is much less likely to float away during heavy rains. Landscape beds surrounding pools should use this type if they don’t want to find mulch floating in the pool. Although, you will want to dampen the mulch daily to prevent the mulch from blowing around on Oklahoma’s windy days.
How Much Mulch Do I Need?
Too much mulch can lead to issues. Over mulching around trees and shrubs can attract insects and rodent infestation. Excessive mulching can also lead to moisture buildup in the plant’s roots which can cause stress and rot. It’s recommended to limit your layer of mulch to roughly two to three inches. It’s important to note, the finer the material, the thinner the layer.
Mulching can be a big task for those with large yards. However, our landscaping experts can make that job easier. With years of experience, we can help maintain your flower beds all year long. Contact us to get started today!