Mulch is any material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering. It is used to retain moisture, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool, and make the garden bed look instantly more attractive. Knowing what’s in your mulch is very important because the last thing you want is to have weeds sprouting, making more work for you.
A variety of materials are used as mulch and each type has its own use. Some of these materials include organic residues, like:
- Grass clippings
- Shredded or chipped bark
- Whole bark nuggets
Using mulch in your garden and around your shrubs and trees, comes with a variety of advantages. Organic mulches, like the ones listed above, help improve the soil’s fertility as they decompose. Mulch also keeps weeds at bay, prevents water evaporation protects your plants’ roots from pests, reduce competition between different species of plants, and reduces extreme soil temperatures.
Mulching can do wonders for your yard, but it also comes with some disadvantages. If wood or back mulch touches the plants, it can suck food out of the soil, prevent water from reaching the plants’ roots and rot the bark. Please remember to leave room around the plants.
Shredded or Chipped Bark
Bark mulches are best used around trees, shrubs, and in garden beds where you won’t be doing a lot of digging, like front walkways and foundation plantings. These woody mulches don’t break down as readily and don’t mix well into the soil. It becomes a hassle when you have to move them aside to make way for new plants. Bark mulch will, however, last longer than finer organic mulches and is a good choice for perennials flower beds.
Woodchips are small to medium sized pieces of wood formed by cutting or chipping larger pieces of wood such as trees, branches, logging residues, stumps, roots, and wood waste. They are good for gardening but can be the least forgiving.
Woodchips, over time, adds to the nitrogen content of soil and thus provides more nutrients for growing plants. If you do not plant below the soil, your plants may not do well.
Bark nuggets come from tree bark that may contain one or more types of wood. They last longer than shredded bark but are not ideal for areas prone to flooding or heavy rains. Bark, as a whole, retains moisture while blocking sunlight from any pesky weed trying to poke through.
Black Mulch & Why To Avoid It
Black Mulch is a dyed mulch that’s made up of recycled wood waste. It can come from old hardwood pallets and decking, demolished buildings or even worse, pressure treated CCA lumber. You should never apply black mulch to your yard, especially around trees when the weather is hot. It will increase soil temperature and it causes damage or death to your plants.
How to Mulch Around Your Plants
The biggest mistake people make is not applying enough mulch to the designated area.
- Add 2-3″ layer of mulch, anything less will let enough light through to allow weeds to grow
- Pull mulch back, an inch or so, from tree trunks, shrubs, and any plant, because mulch can hold moisture and cause your greenery to die
- Replenish from time to time by adding an additional inch every year, either in the Spring or Fall