Suburban Hills Lawn and Garden Tips

Using Mulches in the Landscape

By Glenn Conatser
(Glenn is deceased)

Mulch is needed in the landscape to help conserve moisture for the plantís use, maintain even soil temperatures and to inhibit weed growth. Proper application of mulch is important. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch is adequate for most plantings. Any less than this may not control weeds or reduce moisture loss. Mulch more than 4 inches deep can be detrimental to the plants. Excessive application of mulch can impede water and air movement above the root system. Organic mulch should not come in contact with the trunk or stem of the plant. Simply remove the mulch with your hand or a shovel, using care not to nick the bark of the plant. Mulching materials often hold enough moisture to keep the bark continually wet and could cause decay of the bark.

Commonly used mulches, their advantages and disadvantages

Pine Straw- An excellent mulch for water conservation. Flammable when extremely dry, fades in color with age, decomposes rather quickly and requires annual topdressing with additional pine straw. Can be expensive unless you harvest your own.

Pine Bark- Mini-nuggets conserve moisture better than large nuggets, and stay on the landscape better than large nuggets.

Cypress- An excellent mulch material but can be expensive.

Shredded or chipped hardwood bark - Provides a durable, long lasting mulch, color fades fast and has to be topdressed annually. Sticks to your shoes when you walk on it and makes a mess especially the so called "black mulch".

Fall Leaves- An overlooked and readily available mulch. Shredded leaves stay seated better on the landscape and conserve moisture better than unshredded leaves. Not as neat and uniform in appearance as pine straw and pine bark. Requires a shredder.

Grass Clippings- Decomposes quickly, mats down, and molds. Not recommended unless composted before use.

Landscape Fabric- Allows nutrients and water to penetrate to the plant roots, prevents most weeds. Aggravating to install. Does not prevent nutsedge and other large seeded weed species. Must be covered with organic mulch.

Copyright © 2002-2018 Glenn Conatser, Suburban Hills Homeowners Association