Spreading new mulch in your landscape every spring is the equivalent of adding a fresh new coat of paint to your home. When done properly it enhances curb appeal by making old plantings look new and new plantings look better. Adding mulch helps prevent weeds and retain soil moisture.
Spreading mulch around your landscape is the final step in installing any new planting or finishing your spring cleanup. When completed properly, this will enhance the health of your plantings, increase the appeal of your property and guarantee a beautiful landscape that you can enjoy for at least a month until your have to pull another weed.
What Is Mulch?
A protective covering of various materials, either organic or inorganic, spread over the soil surface to reduce evaporation of moisture, improve plant growth, discourage weedy species and enhance the appearance of the landscape is known as mulch. Inorganic mulching materials include landscape fabric (geotextile) and plastic fi lm that are primarily used for weed control and retention of soil moisture, while rocks, gravel, brick chips and shredded rubber are used more for decorative purposes. Most inorganic mulches do not decay and thus do not improve soil properties. Grass clippings, straw, pine needles, leaves, peat moss, compost, wood fiber and bark are organic mulches composed of
decaying plant materials. Over time, organic mulches will decompose and become part of the soil, adding to the soil’s organic matter, improving soil structure and nutrient availability and helping the soil retain moisture. However, as the organic mulches decompose, they must be replenished.
Benefits of Mulch
Mulch has many benefits:
• Moderates the temperature of the root zone. Mulch provides an insulation effect, keeping the soil
warmer during the winter and cooler during the summer.
• Encourages the conservation of moisture in the soil by reducing surface evaporation.
• Helps control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch reduces the germination and growth of weeds.
• Prevents the soil from crusting over, allowing water to penetrate and percolate. Mulch can improve soil aeration, soil structure (less soil compaction) and drainage.
• Adds organic matter to the soil, improving fertility.
• Restrains soil erosion, especially raindrop erosion.
• Reduces the chance of mechanical injury to trees and shrubs from lawn mowers and weed trimmers.
• Gives the landscape a more pleasing, manicured appearance.
Deciding which mulch is best for you will depend on your purpose, preferences and associated costs. Before choosing a mulch, consider how you will use it. Organic mulches are more natural and enhance many soil properties, while inorganic mulches are used more for decorative purposes. Both kinds of mulch conserve soil moisture to some extent and provide some weed control. All mulches have different properties that may be advantageous in some situations and detrimental in others. Make sure that mulch is applied correctly to enhance tree growth and that cured or aged materials are used.