Mulching 101: What You Need to Know

Mulching 101: What You Need to Know

mulch in gardenMulching might sound like a boring and mundane activity, something that’s easy to just pass over in favor of more critical lawn care tasks. However, mulching your lawn and garden is an easy and affordable way to ensure their health and add a touch of texture to your landscape. 

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What Exactly Is Mulch?

Mulch is an organic or rock-based material used to cover the soil after planting, or even during the middle of the growing season. Doing so helps control weeds, reduces water run-off,  and can protect your soil from extreme temperatures.

Mulch can be organic or inorganic. Organic mulch is made from bark, pine straw, chipped wood, and other similar materials. It can even be harvested from grass clippings, pruning the shrubs, or raking up fallen leaves. 

Inorganic mulch is made from lava rock, small pebbles, river stones, and a variety of other rock-based materials. While inorganic mulch won’t fortify your soil with nutrients, it can still provide protection, stability, and aesthetics to your landscape. Read more about rock-based mulch for landscaping.

Recycled rubber mulch is also available, and it makes a great ground cover for playground equipment. However, it is not recommended for use near grasses and plants. This is because the chemicals in the rubber can leach into the soil, causing damage to nearby vegetation.

Why Do We Need Mulch?

  • We need mulch for a variety of reasons, but most gardeners appreciate its use for the following reasons:
  • It can prevent weed growth in gardens and around trees and shrubs. 
  • It helps cool down the soil in the summer, allowing it to conserve moisture.
  • It helps warm the soil in the winter, protecting root systems.
  • If offers a “finishing touch” to your landscaping.
  • Organic mulch offers compost for the garden soil as it decomposes.

Mulch in any form can be an asset to every homeowner’s lawn and garden. If your purpose is to make your garden look more aesthetic, then you can use inorganic mulch to enhance your landscaping.

However, if you want to “feed” your soil and improve its quality, then you may want to use organic mulch instead. Mulching your grass bed is as simple as mowing over a thin pile of small debris (sticks, leaves, stems) and then spreading it over your lawn to fortify the soil.

Larger, more permanent mulches are commonly used around trees and shrubs. Wood and bark chips are a handsome addition to your landscape, and they break down much more slowly. Over the span of about a year, they will begin to decompose and deposit nutrients into the soil. 

When Should I Mulch My Yard or Garden?

In most cases, mulching is done at the beginning of spring and fall. Obviously, in spring, you should mulch immediately after you planted your spring sprouts, to help feed their growth. 

However, not all plants are cold-hardy, which is why you may choose to mulch in the fall to protect them from the harshness of winter. You don’t need a lot of mulch to protect your plants. Two inches of it is generally sufficient.

In fact, mulching over 4 inches can create an ideal environment for mold and fungal growth, especially in humid climates.  This is true for both organic and inorganic mulching materials.

You only need to replace or replenish organic mulch once the old layer has begun to break down.  As for inorganic mulch, it’s good to rinse it out in the spring and fall to wash away build-up.

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