The Mulch Guide: 5 Reasons Why You Should Be Mulching!
Have you ever wondered why so many homeowners incorporate mulching into their yearly landscaping routines? Well, you probably thought it was solely for aesthetic purposes, but did you know mulch is used for much more than just that? Mulch plays a huge part in moisture retention, heat trapping, controlling weeds, and helping prevent soil erosion. Although many people do mulch for the beautiful cover it provides, the core benefits that mulch provides cannot be beat.
In this article, I will discuss a few of the major types of mulches, in which situations they should be used, and why they are beneficial to your beds. Let’s take a look!
When looking for a long-lasting permeable ground cover, stone is an excellent option. Despite its higher cost, stone is commonly used for pathways, below gutter drains, or around septic tanks, hot-tubs, pools, or beds which don’t contain too many plants or flowers. Stone comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of the most common types are crushed red brick, river rock, and pebbles. Many prefer using stone because it absorbs heat during the day, and gives up the heat at night building a small microclimate that can be quite useful to the health of your plants.
Although stone is a great option, you will want to be cautious when mowing around these areas. Stones will cause nicks and dings in your mower blade causing it to dull more quickly. Often times the stones will become misplaced by either foot traffic, erosion, or water drainage. When this happens, simply use a rake to amend the bare spots.
Rock mulch is at times used in perennial plantings. The large rocks absorb a lot of heat during the day thus creating the potential for a warmer microclimate area as compared to the smaller pebbles. It will all depend on the size of the rocks, their quantity, and color.
Dark rocks and stones absorb more heat as compared to light-colored or white stones. With larger rocks and stones, you will also be able to envelop a bigger spot using very few stones making it easier to remove the mulch when the need arises.
A good covering of larger stones also helps in preventing soil erosion.
Compost mulch isn’t typically used for aesthetic purposes, but instead is used to add nutrients to the soil. Gardens are a popular spot for compost mulch due to the carbon and nitrogen that drain from the compost to the soil. This adds organic nutrients to your soil that allow your plants to thrive. Compost also is often slightly acidic making it a great addition to a garden that has alkaline soil.
If you are the one making the compost, be sure to turn the pile once in awhile. Turning the compost pile makes it hot and therefore ends up killing any weed seed that may be present in your compost pile.
Shredded Hardwood Mulch
Shredded hardwood mulch comes in many varieties and can be used for a multitude of projects. Hardwood mulch is either shredded wood or bark. This wood is then either used as is, or is dyed a certain color. When used as mulch, wood chips are very advantageous. For instance, they can retain water due to their great ability to take up and hold moisture. It is an advantage if you are living in areas that are overly wet, or too dry.
Shredded bark and wood chips have a high carbon to nitrogen ratio and are great when used on top of the soil. You will find that they cover and insulate your plant roots very well. It is something that helps provide protection against extreme and fluctuating temperatures.
Pine Straw Mulch
Pine straw mulch is extremely common in southern states due to the blazing hot temperatures. Pine needles are an affordable ground coverage which help shield the vulnerable ground from the brutal heat. Given that pine needles are wispy and thin, you will need to use a thick layer to be able to suppress the weeds.
Pine needles happen to be very acidic making them ideal for alkaline soils. When you use the pine needles, they begin to affect your soil pH slowly making it more alkaline. However, you should not dig the needles into the soil, unless you have thoroughly composted them first.
A definition by dictionary.com states that allelopathy is the “suppression of growth of a plant by a toxin released from a nearby plant of the same of another species.” A huge benefit of using pine needles is that they can have this allopathic effect on nearby weeds making them an excellent ground cover for anyone looking to suppress weeds in their beds.
Because of its higher cost, rubber mulch is not as commonly used, but it is durable and will last longer than any organic mulch. The most common use for rubber mulches are on playgrounds where foot traffic is high and the mulch doesn’t need replaced often. One downfall to synthetic mulch is the lack of nutrients. Although synthetic mulch is still good for retaining water and preventing weeds, it has no nutrient factor and will add nothing to enhance your soil. With that said, it is better to avoid using such mulch around plant dense areas.
Now that we have established some of the most common types of mulches, lets talk a little bit more about the benefits of mulching and why you should add it to your landscape.
Benefits of Mulching:
When you use certain types of mulch like cedar bark, you will find that it contains certain natural oils which repel pests.
To make sure that you reap maximum benefits from mulching, you need to find mulch that is very fragrant. A fragrant mulch will have the greatest effect on insects ensuring they stay away from your garden.
Helps Maintain Soil Nutrients
Mulch not only secures nutrients from becoming washed away by the rain, but it also releases nutrients into the soil as the organic material slowly begins to decompose.
Organic mulch is known to absorb water. Both organic and non-organic mulches cover the soil thus limiting evaporation.
Retaining moisture during the hot and dry seasons not only helps your plant, but it also helps lower your water bill, as you will not be forced to water the plants.
Prevents Soil Erosion
Have you ever had dirt from yours beds wash into the grass after a big rain? Mulching not only plays a major role in keeping the existing water trapped inside the soil, but it also ensures that the rainwater does not wash away the top soil.
It can prevent soil erosion by breaking the fall of the water thus lessening the force of the water influencing the ground.
When you apply mulch, you get to limit the number of weeds that spring up in the open spaces available in your garden.
The mulch will act as a barrier and will limit the amount of sunlight that finds its way to the weeds.
As you can see, the benefits of mulch are numerous. Not only can they make your home look beautiful, but can also greatly enhance the overall health of your landscape. Depending on the type of mulch you choose to use, application periods will vary. Make sure you are always replacing the mulch once it begins to decompose or becomes thin on the soil surface. If you aren’t sure what type of mulch to purchase, be sure to take our mulch quiz! Good luck and get mulching!
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