Mulching is one of the most advantageous practices you can do on your property. You are creating a physical barrier around your plants, trees and shrubs, as well as over the barren earth.
Compared to bare beds, landscaped beds reduce weeds, retain soil moisture better, and are more drought-resistant. Additionally, they protect the soil from erosion and help prevent compaction during heavy rains. A mulched property is more vivid, has a more polished look and feel, and has increased curb appeal.
Mulch should be used twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The application should be made in the spring after the landscape has been cleaned and the lawn has been edged. In the fall, late summer to late fall is the optimal period to help insulate your plants over the winter months.
There are two primary forms of mulch: organic and inorganic, and each has a number of advantages and disadvantages.
Organic mulch is by far the most prevalent type of mulch. They are composed of biological organisms. They may be grasses, leaves, straw, shredded bark, pine needles, or compost.
Organic mulches improve soil condition, even inviting earthworms to organically aerate the soil and aid in soil compaction reduction. They enrich the soil with nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, and trace elements as they decompose. However, because they degrade, they must be replaced on a regular basis.
Types of Organic Mulch
- Bark and Wood Chips
Bark and wood chips are popular mulches because they are cheap, ornamental, and excellent at reducing weed growth, improving moisture retention, and insulating soil. Hardwood chippings that have begun to degrade are the greatest mulch for flower beds and borders since they break down faster. They also look natural in a garden landscape.
Softwood chippings, especially pine, take longer to decompose. Softwood chippings are therefore preferred near trees and large bushes. Some governments provide free wood chippings to homeowners. Fresh chippings that have not been dried or aged can leech nitrogen from the soil and cause nutritional deficits in plants.
- Grass Clippings
Grass clippings have both benefits and drawbacks when used as plant mulch. They are free and can be used as mulch to reduce garden waste. Their high water content helps them decay quickly, but they become sticky and stinky as they decompose. So keep them away from areas where you spend time. Grass clippings work well to reduce weeds, so if that’s your main goal, use them sparingly.
The best way to use grass clippings in a flower garden is to compost them. This will avoid odors and allow the mulch’s nutrients to integrate into the soil and improve it. If you have used herbicides or pesticides on your lawn, do not use grass clippings as mulch. They may be harmful to plants, especially crops.
Straw is great for mulching vegetable gardens and new lawns. In the spring, lay down straw mulch to endure the full growing season, saving you time and effort. Straw is also simply raked up and moved aside to make room for more vegetable plants, or it can be incorporated into the soil.
Straw is widely used as a barrier between plants and the ground, such as strawberries and pumpkins. The straw barrier protects them from soil blemishes. It protects lawn seeds from being washed away and deters rodents and birds from eating on the seeds. It also helps retain moisture, which is important for seed germination. Straw is also cheap, but be careful not to buy hay by mistake, as it contains seeds that could weed your garden.
- Garden Compost
Food scraps, garden products, and manure are good soil mulches. Make sure your compost is well broken down before spreading it around the base of plants. Compost adds a layer of insulation to the soil, protecting plant roots from severe temperatures and enhancing drought tolerance. Compost is also good between layers of mulch. Apply a thin layer to the soil, then a different mulch, such as bark or wood chips, on top.
- Shredded Leaves
You can also get free mulch by shredding fallen leaves around your yard. Leaf mulch is rich in nutrients and provides a habitat for earthworms and other soil-improving animals. It isn’t the most appealing mulch, but if you add it to your soil in early spring, it will blend in well by summer.
You can also use full, unshredded leaves, but they appear messier and can cluster together and compact, preventing precipitation from reaching the soil. If this happens, use a lawn rake to fluff the leaves.
- Pine Needles
In the event that you have pine trees on your property, a landscape design expert suggests that you can pick up the fallen needles and use them as mulch among your plants. In addition to being absolutely free, they form a beautiful, natural-looking mulch for your garden.
- Cocoa Hulls
Cocoa husks are in and out of fashion among gardeners due to varying safety concerns. Even if this allegation is occasionally challenged, it is advised to avoid cocoa mulch if you have pets. Cocoa hulls are a favorite mulch for certain individuals because of their warm brown hue and chocolatey fragrance.
They are pricey, degrade quickly, and require replacement at least once a year, making them a more costly option than other mulches. A one-inch covering of cocoa husks is recommended to avoid mold growth. In dry weather, it blows away.
Inorganic mulch is most frequently seen in the form of rocks or gravel, plastic sheeting, landscaping fabric, and rubber mulch. Inorganic mulches do not degrade or break down slowly over time. While inorganic mulches are more expensive initially, they are more cost-effective in the long run because they do not need to be reapplied or topped off as frequently as biological mulches.
The downsides of non-decomposing inorganic mulches include that they do not give nutrients to the soil and, in extreme cases, may even prevent nutrients from reaching the soil entirely. Inorganic mulches can surely offer an aesthetic value to landscapes and are effective at suppressing weeds. However, they do not perform as well as organic mulches in retaining soil moisture, protecting plants throughout the winter, or adding nutrients to the soil through decomposition.
Types of Inorganic Mulch
- Rock or Gravel Decorative
Rock mulches can dramatically improve the appearance of your outdoor living space including flower and garden beds. They effectively inhibit weeds when applied thickly or when combined with plastic or fabric. While they can be costly initially, they rarely require reapplication or topping off. However, rocks do not contribute nutrients to the soil or aid in moisture retention.
Indeed, rocks can absorb and reflect sunlight, making the location too hot and dry for many plants. Rock mulch is best suited for areas devoid of vegetation or drought-tolerant plants. Additionally, it is quite heavy to apply and difficult to deal with and plant once laid.
- Plastic Sheeting
Plastic sheeting is the garden’s worst enemy and should be avoided at all costs. Plastic sheeting is a good weed suppressant and is frequently topped with organic or inorganic mulches to improve its appearance. Additionally, it is long-lasting, saving you money by not needing to be replaced frequently. Despite its benefits, using plastic sheeting in gardens prevents water, air, and nutrients from reaching the soil.
As a result, it is not suggested for use near plants, particularly trees and shrubs with extensive root systems. Additionally, it prevents the soil from breathing and kills a variety of helpful creatures, including worms and beneficial microbes that reside beneath the soil. Ultimately, it destroys the soil.
- Landscape Fabric
Weeds are efficiently suppressed by high-quality landscape fabric, which also allows for the penetration of air, water, and nutrients into the soil. It is typically covered with organic or inorganic mulches to give it a more pleasing aesthetic appearance.
So, what exactly is the drawback? Since low-cost landscaping fabric can rip or break down easily, it may end up costing you more money in the long run in terms of replacement or when combined with other weed control measures.
- Rubber Mulch
Rubber mulch is often created from recycled tires that have been pulverized. The utilization of recycled resources is always advantageous. Rubber mulch is good at suppressing weeds and, in some cases, helps retain soil moisture. Additionally, it is available in a variety of hues for an eye-catching appearance.
Rubber mulch is believed to be beneficial for playgrounds due to its soft and rubbery texture. Apart from that, the toxicity of rubber mulches is still under investigation. Additionally, an OSU study discovered that rubber mulch is the most combustible of all forms of mulch. It does not degrade and can remain in the soil for an extended period of time.
Benefits of Mulching
- Organize Borders
Numerous mulches have an attractive appearance that contributes to the uniformity and professionalism of your landscape design.
- Prevent the Growth of Weeds
While mulch can not fully eliminate weeds, it will significantly diminish their appearance, saving you the time and frustration of future gardening. Weed seeds, like other plants, require light and moisture to sprout, and mulch deprives them of these essential ingredients. Additionally, thick layers of mulch act as a barrier, preventing the majority of weed seeds from establishing a foothold in your soil.
- Strengthen Pest Resistance
Certain mulches attract beneficial insects and other organisms that operate as a natural insecticide, reducing pest concerns.
- Reduce Watering
Mulch aids in water conservation by minimizing moisture evaporation from the soil. This means you’ll need to water your plants less frequently, perhaps saving money and enhancing their drought tolerance.
- Increase the Soil’s Quality
Organic mulches decompose over time, releasing nutrients into the soil and so improving soil quality.
- Retain the Soil’s Heat
Mulch acts as an insulator for the soil, reducing heat loss and conserving soil warmth. This is beneficial for plants that are sensitive to unexpected temperature changes or those that thrive in warm, cozy environments.
Backyard Reflections is proud to offer our innovative outdoor living design, skilled landscaping services and superior customer service to the west Metro, Annandale, and Brainerd Lakes areas. We look forward to discussing your vision for your dream landscape.
Call us at (320) 640-2626 in Annandale, (218) 220-2785 in Nisswa, or fill out our online form to schedule your no-obligation consultation.