Landscaping with Mulch
Mulch Improves The Appearance of Your Landscape
Mulch is any kind of inorganic or organic material that gets placed on top of a landscape or garden’s soil. Mulch is one of the most valuable tools that a gardener has, and for low-maintenance landscapes is an essential component.
Apart from the decorative value that mulch provides, if offers many important benefits to plants and soil.
Mulch helps to reduce how much water is lost via the evaporation process by protecting the soil against the drying rays of the sun.
During the summer, mulch helps to keep the soil cooler and throughout the cold winter months helps to insulate it, which helps to lessen the effects that fluctuating temperatures can have on the roots of plants, and also decreases their being susceptible to frost heaving.
As mulch begins to break down, organic matter gets added into the soil. When the amount of organic matter is increased in soil, it helps to improve the soil’s drainage, structure, nutrient holding capacity and moisture.
In addition, mulch encourages activity from beneficial soil organisms. The spread of certain plant diseases is suppressed, along with weed growth. In addition, there is less of a tendency for mulch plots to erode.
Mulch materials can be found right in your very own back yard. One great source of mulch is lawn clippings.
For flower beds mulch clippings are not very attractive, however they work really well in vegetable gardens. Their fine texture makes it possible to easily spread them around even small plants. However, with mulching lawnmowers becoming so popular these days, grass clippings have become scarce, especially since mulching provides the same benefits to lawns as it does to gardens.
Decomposed leaf remains and leaf mold are what give forest floors their spongy, absorbent structure. One of the best types of mulch is compost if you have an abundant supply of it. It provides plants with many beneficial nutrients and improves soil structure.
You can purchase composted bark mulch and bark chips at garden centers. They make a nice finish for garden beds and improve the soil’s condition eventually. They can last one to three years and sometime longer depending on how large the chips are or how decomposed the bark mulch happens to be.
It is usually easier to spread smaller mulch chips around plants, especially smaller plants. Depending on the area that you live in, there are many other materials that make great mulches.
Straw and hay work very well in vegetable gardens. However, they might contain weed seeds.
You can also use pine needles, ground corn cobs and seaweed mulch. Pine needles have a tendency to increase the soil’s acidity, so it is best to use them around acid-loving plants like azaleas and rhododendrons.
Choosing Between Types Of Mulches For Ornamental Bed Areas
Organic mulches come from natural materials. Over time, they decompose. As mulch continues to decompose, it adds organic matter and nutrients into the soil. In addition, it enhances beneficial microorganisms such as mycorrhizal fungi and nitrifying bacteria, while it inhibits the undesirable pathogens that cause plant diseases.
Greater levels of organic matter attracts earth worms, reduces soil compaction, increases the retention of soil moisture and improves soil drainage and tilth. Since organic mulch does decompose, you will need to replace it. Depending on what kind of mulch is used, every one to four years you will need to replace it.
Mulch That is Inorganic
Inorganic mulches include plastic mulches, landscape fabrics, geotextile mats and stones. Plastic mulches and landscape fabrics deteriorate over time and will need to be replaced eventually.
Usually it is more tedious to install inorganic mulches. Inorganic mulch also might need irrigation since they can have limited water penetration.
Some inorganic mulches have been designed so that they reflect the sky. This is done in order to confuse insects and prevent them from landing on your plants. Many inorganic mulches don’t appear natural and are frequently covered for decorative purposes with an organic mulch.
Mulch Installation Tips
Do NOT apply mulch heavily against tree bases or plant crowns. Excessive mulch that is applied so that it is in direct contact with tree trunks or stems might retain excess moisture around the plant’s base, which can lead to diseases developing such as crown rot.
Our expert mulch installation technicians know exactly where to apply the right amount of mulch necessary for your ornamental trees and plants to thrive as well as improve the appearance of your overall landscape.
When mulch is piled around plants, it can serve as a home for stem and bark eating rodents.
Problems can arise when mulch gets applied too thickly. A mulch that is derived from wood might decompose under high temperatures, which will cause it to dry out. Fungi may then colonize the mulch, which creates water repellent conditions in the mulch.
This results in water not being able to penetrate through the mulch and go into the soil, so the plants do not get enough moisture.
Another problem that can arise when you mulch too deeply is that is may keep your soil wet on a continuous basis. This deprives plants of much-needed oxygen and contributes to stem and root rot problems. Mulch layers should be applied 1-3 inches thick and no more.
Be sure to thoroughly water any newly installed bark or wood mulches. Many high quality mulches end up being stored in big piles.
These piles have a tendency to reach very high temperatures. Whenever this mulch gets bagged or spread, microorganisms that are high-temperature tolerant and inhabiting the mulch begin to die as the mulch starts to cool down.
If you allow the mulch to remain dry or dry out, it can be colonized by nuisance fungi which results in a water-repellent surface being created.
Before a wood-derived mulch is applied, Lawn Frogs Landscapes recommends fertilizing to add a nitrogen source to your garden soil. Soil microorganisms that work to decompose wood-based mulches and other organic materials will compete for soil nitrogen, which is limited.
This can cause a temporary nitrogen deficiency, particularly in perennial and annual plants. Nitrogen deficiency is often indicated by yellowing leaves. Incorporate a light amount of nitrogen from a source such as high nitrogen lawn fertilizer, urea or bloodmeal before the mulch is applied.
Common Mulch Problems
Artillery Fungus: These are orange-brown, cream or tiny fruiting cup-shaped structures containing a small mass of black spores.
The spore mass is shot into the air by the fungus, and it will stick to whatever surface it happens to land on. You can visibly see these small black spots on home siding or plant leaves. It is very hard to remove them.
Slime Molds: These are bright orange or yellow slimy masses that grow to one foot in diameter or more. Tiny spores are produced that dry and then blow away eventually.
This type of mold isn’t a serious problem. It just provides the landscape with a “decorative” addition. If you don’t like how they look, remove them.
Sour Mulch: If your mulch smells like sulfur, ammonia, vinegar or alcohol, it most likely is “sour.” This smell gets created whenever a wood-derived mulch is in a high pile and the inner part of pile doesn’t receive enough oxygen.
Anaerobic activity results, creating an acetic acid build-up inside the mulch. This is toxic for plants. If this mulch gets spread without it being treated, the volatile acid will cause plants to quickly wilt and then die. You can treat sour mulch by thinly spreading it out, soaking it thoroughly with water, and then letting it dry.
After it has aired out for a couple of days, it shouldn’t smell sour anymore and you can safely spread it around your plants.
Then a coloring agent is added so they look like they are suitable to use for gardens and landscapes.
These mulches are commercially produced and might decompose more quickly than mulches made out of natural bark.
They also might have undesirable substances in them for using in children’s play areas and vegetable gardens.
Lawn Frogs Landscaping only uses natural hardwood blended mulch in all of our install applications to avoid any contaminating issues in the soil and of your plants.
To learn more about our professional mulch application and installation process for your landscape, contact us today!