Garden and Landscape Mulch
Mulch is a very useful item in both gardens and landscaping. It can be used
around almost all plants: trees, bushes, shrubs, flowers, vegetables, and
herbs. It has many benefits and uses, from decorative, to practical in keeping
weeds down, to name a few. Most likely you are, or will be, using much around
your yard, and in your gardens.
By definition, mulch is just about any material used to cover the
ground or soil, most often around some of your favorite plants and
trees. Not all mulches are organic. Those that break down over time,
can add to soil fertility and structure. But, they can also alter soil pH
for good, or bad.
Benefits and Uses:
Decorative - For landscaping applications, this is the #1 reason gardeners
and homeowners use mulch. It simply makes yards and gardens attractive. Garden
stores offer a wide assortment of mulches, which add to the beauty of your
home and garden.
Warm or cool soil - Thin, black or dark layers of mulch absorb heat form
the sun, transferring some of the extra heat to the soil. White or light
colored mulches reflect much of the intense rays of the sun, helping to keep
soil temperatures lower.
Keep weeds down - Thick or impenetrable layers of mulch, keep all but the
most pesky weeds from sprouting and growing. It's a whole lot easier to lay
down a thick layer of mulch, than spend countless hours weeding.
Retain soil moisture - In any combination of sunny, dry and windy conditions,
moisture is released from the soil. Mulch helps to retain the moisture for
your plants. That translates to healthier plants, less time spent watering,
and lower water bills.
Helps avoid soil erosion - Heavy rains are slowed. depending upon the type
of mulch, water is diverted away.
Fertilize plants - Not all mulches fertilize the soil. However, if you use
compost as a mulch, it will help to fertilize your soil as it breaks down.
Types of Mulch:
Decorative Stones - Wildly popular as a landscaping mulch around trees, bushes,
and flower gardens. Long lasting and low maintenance.
Compost - This is a great short term mulch. It is frequently used in flower
and vegetable gardens. As it breaks down, it provides a wealth of fertilizer
and micro-nutrients to garden plants. When, using compost as a mulch, you
have to re-apply it frequently.
Pine Bark - This a very popular, and inexpensive mulch. It creates an
attractive appearance. Pine back is acidic. As it slowly breaks down, it
can make the soil more acidic.
Other Barks - There's a wide variety of bark mulch, offering homeowners a
wide selection in landscaping around their home. The pH of each type of bark
varies, and can affect soil pH over time.
Compost - Compost offers a treasure trove of N-P-K and micro-nutrients.
It is broadly used by home gardeners. It is often used as a mulch in flower
and vegetable gardens. It breaks down fairly quickly, so multiple applications
may be needed during the year.
Cocoa Shells - They were the rage in the 60's ad 70's. When this mulch is
first applied, it has a very strong, appealing aroma. Cocoa Shells were commonly
used as a mulch around flower gardens, trees and shrubs.
Plastic Sheeting - It's often used to knock out weeds. Once the weeds are
gone, many people leave it on the soil. Just remember: black plastic will
raise soil temperatures, while white plastic will lower it.
Straw - If you are planting new grass in hot, dry weather, chances are you
mulch straw over the seeds until they sprout. Some of the straw breaks down
into the soil during this process. The remainder is raked off the new lawn.