Mulching 101: The Ultimate Guide To Mulching
Kim Sagum

Mulching. There are few gardening tasks that will make such a large impact on your yard. In one fell swoop, you can suppress weeds, increase moisture retention, stabilize soil temperature and make your garden and yard look beautifully buttoned up. The types of mulch you can choose from are endless, but not every mulch is appropriate for every situation. Before you transform your space with a fresh layer of mulch, take a moment to consider a few basic mulching tips on how to mulch so you get it right the first time.

Types of Mulch and Their Ideal Uses

A trip to the local garden supply store will quickly show just how many varieties of mulch are out there for your garden landscape. It’s easy to stand in front of a shelf full of mulch and wonder, “what kind of mulch should I use?” Knowing the best type of mulch for your garden needs will save you time and money.

There are two main types of mulch: organic mulch and inorganic mulch. This wording doesn’t refer to the use of chemicals, but rather to the base ingredient of the mulch.

Organic mulch is comprised of natural, plant-based products. Not only do organic mulch types provide all the benefits of mulch – weed control, moisture retention, erosion control, soil insulation and improved appearance – they also break down over time to enrich your soil with organic matter. Some popular organic mulches include:

·Pine bark – a cost-effective mulch choice for flower beds.

The large chunks of dark wood don’t compact or break down as easily as finer mulch types. Pine bark draws in moisture and allows water to reach the soil easily. Acid-loving plants will thrive with pine mulches. The downside is that the nuggets are very light and can easily be washed or blown away.

·Pine needles (pine straw) – available in bales or can be raked up from underneath your own pine trees.

This lightweight mulch option compacts down into a nice mat of mulch which helps the material stay in place. It’s perfect for large areas and acid-loving plants.

·Straw – another inexpensive option.

The light bales are easy to transport, and because it decomposes quickly, it’s often used in vegetable gardens or as a cover for newly seeded lawns. Keep in mind that strong winds are not a friend of straw – if dry, it will blow everywhere.

·Cedar – the longest lasting organic mulch available.

It’s a natural insect repellent and has a pleasant fragrance. Cedar is an ideal choice for acid-loving plants.

·Leaves – a popular (and free!) choice for mulching your garden beds in the winter.

They are also a convenient option for around the base of trees. Simply rake the leaves toward the base of each tree.

Inorganic mulch is created from sources that were never living. It’s a heavier option that performs well as a landscaping mulch. Popular inorganic types of mulch are:

·Rocks, gravel and pebbles, which can be found in all colors and textures, giving you endless design options.

It’s a long-lasting option, since it doesn’t decompose and will stay in place for years. It helps increase moisture retention and discourages weed growth. It also performs well in paths, driveways, patios and play areas.

·Plastic sheets – often used as a mulch to eliminate weed growth in a vegetable garden.

Once secured to the ground, plastic will trap in warmth, making it ideal for warming the soil in early spring. Different colors are available for different uses – for example, some gardeners swear their tomatoes perform best when surrounded by red plastic sheeting. Keep in mind that if you go this route, because it blocks moisture, you should install a soaker hose underneath for irrigation.

·Landscape fabric – an alternative to plastic that allows both air and moisture to pass through.

It’s often used in decorative flower beds as an extra weed barrier underneath another mulch. Remove weeds growing on top of it quickly, as the roots can grow into the fabric and become difficult to remove.

·Rubber – it has the look of traditional bark mulch, but it lasts much longer.

Made from recycled materials, rubber mulch will not decompose and is less likely to wash or blow away.

How to Mulch

With the proper application of mulch, you’ll increase the health of garden plants. Learning how to mulch a garden is simple, requiring just a little preparation and a few steps and mulching tips.

1.How Much Do I Buy?

Calculate how much mulch you need by measuring the square footage of each landscape bed you’ll cover (factor each area by multiplying the width and length). A good rule of thumb is to plan on covering the ground with 2 inches of mulch.

If you need a large quantity, it’s much cheaper to buy mulch by the bucket loader or truck load from your local garden center or yard service. Most of the time, though, buying it in bags is easiest and makes spreading it more efficient, too.

2.Prepare the Area

While mulch helps prevent new weeds, it won’t help you control the ones that are already there. Make sure to pull existing weeds beforehand and follow up with a preemergent herbicide.

3.Spread the Mulch

Spread mulch in your garden area, leaving several inches between the mulch and the base of each plant. Piling mulch against a plant or tree can encourage disease or pest damage. Be careful to spread mulch evenly – areas where the mulch is too thin won’t prevent weeds or retain moisture.

4.Water it Down

Give your newly mulched area a gentle watering using the soft wash setting on Gilmour’s Heavy Duty Front Control Watering Nozzle. Providing moisture will prevent the mulch from blowing away, and maintaining consistent moisture will keep your mulch looking fresh and in place.

Mulch is a great way to control weeds and keep your garden and yard looking tidy and finished. It’s easy to install and can really make a difference.