Tips on Mulching
- IF ROOTS ARE GROWING UP INTO THE MULCH,
THE AMOUNT OF MULCH IS TOO MUCH.
- AVOID MULCH AGAINST THE BASE OF THE TREE.
- FOLLOW THE WAY NATURE DOES IT, AND ADD A LITTLE MULCH EVERY YEAR.
- BREAKDOWN PRODUCTS OF MULCH HELP BUFFER MANY
CHEMICAL REACTIONS IN THE SOIL.
- Mulch depth or thickness not to exceed 2 to 4 inches.
- Do not pile or hill mulch around the tree trunk.
- Mulch composition should include organic matter.
- Mulching mix example; 50% wood chips, 50% compost.
- Mulch should come up to the trunk of the tree.
- Mulching should extend beyond the outer branch tips by 1 foot.
- Mulch can be applied anytime, and should be replenished bi-annually.
Benefits of Mulching: Mulching under ornamental plants reduces weed competition, increases moisture and moderates soil temperatures. All mulches breakdown over time and needs to be replenished every 2 years. The by-products of the breakdown buffer the soil reactive chemicals. In addition, it forms a physical barrier to protect the stems from string trimmers and mower decks. A mulch bed can create a highlighting affect that will show your ornamentals at a better advantage.
Mulch Beds and Tree Saucers: The outside edge of an ornamental plant mulch bed should be a least at the drip line of the plant in full foliage. Mulch beds can be informally asymmetric or formally lineal. They can be used to bring isolated plantings together and form a loose groupings in the landscape. Tree saucers are a minimum of 3 feet radius around the base of the tree. Saucers can extend to the edge of the tree drip line.
Mulch beds should not be thicker than 3 inches. Any thicker and it will limit the amount of available oxygen to the plant roots. In addition, thicker mulch sets up conditions for anaerobic decomposition to take place.
Types of Mulch: Two basic categories of mulch are organic or mineral. Mineral mulches are generally stone and are not as beneficial to plants as the organic mulches. Examples of organic mulches might be tree wood chips, sawdust, bark chips or nuggets, nutshells, peat moss, leaf litter and pine straw. Locally, we recommend Grade A Cypress Mulch, Hardwood Bark, and Composted Bark and Wood Chips. Cedar Chips are a good choice, but will turn a grey color. Hardwood Bark decomposes faster than Cypress Chips. Mulch will have to be added to a little each year because it decomposes.
The Importance of Composted Mulch: The mulches you use should be composted before you put them under your ornamental plants. If the mulch is not composted, then it will compost under your ornamentals. During the process of composting ammonia gases are emitted, wood alcohols and concentrated organic solutions drain from the base, and temperatures can reach 160-180 degrees F. The composting in place can cook your ornamental. In addition, the draining organic solutions will burn your lawn.
How Much Mulch: One cubic yard of mulch will cover an area of 107 square feet, 3 inches deep. A cubic yard is 27 cubic feet. An 8-foot pick-up truck bed holds 67 cubic feet, or about 2-1/2 yards of mulch, if level with the top rails. (We prefer to use bagged mulch for the sake of convenience.)
Making A Mulch Bed: Use a garden hose to outline your mulch bed or tree saucer. Spray a grass killer inside the area enclosed by the hose. Be careful not to overspray or drift spray onto your ornamentals. You can then cut a bed "check" edge that will be 4 inches deep and sloped back in the bed area 7 inches. You can install edging materials, if you wish. However, the bed "check" edge is all that is necessary to keep the mulch inside the bed area. When you mow, hang the edge of your mowing deck just over the bed edge with the discharge away from the center of the bed. Bed edging material may interfere with this mowing technique.
Spread your mulch in back and between the plants. A leaf rake can be used to pull the mulch forward to the bed edge and smooth the area. Take care to pull the mulch back from the stems of the plants, as mulch against the bark increases the chance of stem or bark rot.
Weeds in the Mulch Bed: Mulching will reduce the weeds, but will not completely eliminate them. Pull them as you see them emerge. They will be easy to pull because the soil is kept moist. Weed and grass killer can be used to get rid of weeds growing away fro the ornamental foliage. Weeds growing in the foliage of the ornamentals will have to be hand pulled. Keep after the weeds or they may take over your mulch bed and overcome the ornamentals.
What's That Nasty Looking Stuff in My Mulch Bed?: Another problem in mulch beds can be Slime Mold. It appears as yellowish-green, or it could be dark brown or black, in color. Sometimes it will even grow up the stems of your ornamentals. It is relatively harmless. It just looks nasty. When the humidity and nighttime temperatures are high, it can grow quickly. You can just rake it under and eventually the weather conditions for its growth will change and it should not be a problem. Slime Mold can occur on any mulch, but it seems to occur on most hardwood mulches.
Remember Why You Are Mulching: Mulching ornamental plants should improve the growing conditions and protect them from mowing damage. The mulch beds should reduce the amount of trim mowing you are doing and make your home landscape look better.