Mulch is a “hot” topic. Mulch is any material used to cover the soil around plants, shrubs, and trees. Some are organic, such as pine bark, but inorganic materials, such as pebbles, can be used as well. Mulch improves the appearance of landscapes and is beneficial for plants.
Why use mulch?
- Mulched areas attract worms. Worms will further break down the mulch, provide natural fertilizer in the form of castings, and improve the aeration of your soil.
- Mulch works as insulation that stabilizes the surface temperature of your soil, preventing extreme heat that can scorch plants and extreme cold that can freeze roots.
- It prevents erosion of topsoil when rains are heavy and promotes retention of moisture when periods of drought occur.
- Also, mulch suppresses weeds from sprouting up around your plants.
- Mulch increases the fertility of your soil by adding nutrients as water seeps through the mulch and penetrates the soil.
- Additionally, mulch can change the PH of your soil; acidic soil can be made more alkaline with mushroom or seaweed compost mulch, and alkaline soil can be made more acidic with sphagnum peat or pine bark mulch.
- Mulch around fruit and vegetable plants keeps the produce cleaner by preventing splashing during heavy rains that can otherwise deposit dirt and debris on your produce.
- Finally, mulch just simply looks good!
How to use mulch?
- A depth of two to three inches on top of the soil around plants, trees, and shrubs is sufficient.
- Make sure the soil under the mulch has adequate drainage. If the soil does not drain well, use a one to two inch layer.
- Do not place mulch directly on a tree or shrub’s root ball or against the bark. It prevents sufficient oxygen from reaching the roots and can cause stress and root rot.
- Extend mulch at least to a tree’s drip line, preferably even beyond, since the root system extends that wide underground.
- Replenish mulch at least yearly. Organic materials may have to be replenished twice a year as they will decompose.
What can be used as mulch?
- Organic materials
- Composted organic material
- Composted hot manure (chicken, cow, horse)
- Cold manure (rabbit, goat)
- Barks and wood chips
- Nut shells
- Hay straw
- Pine straw
- Grass clippings
- Inorganic materials
- Gravel and crushed stone
- Landscape fabric
- Recycled rubber tires
A great site that gives the advantages and disadvantages of different types of mulch is at the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources.
Many homes are going green and helping save the planet by recycling their paper, plastic, glass, and metals. A compost pile is not only a green way to dispose of organic household waste, but it is also a process that produces rich mulch you can use in many ways. Although many materials can be used as mulch, the best mulch you can use comes from a compost pile. What makes the “grass greener on that side of the fence” is that it will already have worms and worm castings mixed in.