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Mulch: A Beginner’s Guide

There are a lot of different kinds of mulch out there, and they can add a beautiful touch to your lawn and garden.

Laying mulch is one of the best things you can do for your landscape. It improves fertility and the health of flower beds, tree beds and vegetable gardens. Plus, it’s a great way to add contrast to your landscape and add curb appeal to your home. Our beginner’s guide to mulch will help you figure out how to tackle this exciting project.

What Do You Want From Your Mulch?

First you need to ask yourself a few questions so you can make a plan and pick mulch that will be best suited for your needs. What purpose are you laying it for? Are you just looking to enhance visual appeal or do you need more nutrient rich soil? Are you trying to reduce weed growth? Are you putting mulch in your garden or using it in your flower and tree beds? What color and kind of look do you want to achieve? How long do you want it to last? Do you have animals or kids? What is the square footage of the area you’re going to cover?

Why Mulch?

There are some general purposes that all mulches share. It provides temperature control by keeping the ground a little warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It also prevents soil erosion and maintains moisture in the soil. Mulch is great for either completely or partially blocking the growth of weeds. It can cut down on a lot of the maintenance you have to do.

Types of Mulch

Select the type of mulch that is best suited for your needs. There are many different types of mulch and all of them have their own pros and cons. Mainly, mulch can be broken down into two categories: organic and inorganic.

Organic Mulch

Organic mulch is primarily used in vegetable gardens because it is helps nutrients get to the roots of the plants and can be tilled into the soil at the end of the season. Organic mulches include natural materials like grass clippings, hay, straw, pine needles, leaves and wood chips.

Hardwood mulch and bark is a popular choice because it looks fantastic, does not blow away easily and lasts up to three years. Hardwood and bark comes in a lot of different colors. This lets you change the appearance of your landscape if you want to experiment. Take the colors of your home, flowers, trees, shrubs, and rocks into consideration when you’re deciding which color of mulch to get. Depending on your terrain, you may have to touch up some spots yearly.

Inorganic Mulch

Inorganic mulch is usually made of rubber or stones and never has to be reapplied because it doesn’t decompose.

Rubber mulch looks like wood mulch but doesn’t fade as fast. Even though you might have to touch up here and there, some rubber mulches last up to 10 years. Because rubber is generally more dense than wood, rubber will not blow or wash away as easily as wood mulch. On average, rubber mulch is a bit more expensive than other types, but you only need a 1 ½ to 2 inch layer because of its density. Rubber mulch is much lower maintenance than organic mulches.

Stone mulch is very decorative and comes in a wide variety of shapes and colors. It is also a great tool to give a contrasting look to your landscape. If you are laying mulch around tree beds or shrubs, you may want to consider stone mulch. A lot of homeowners use stone on walkways and along driveways because it is heavy and keeps a clean edge on them. Stone is not the best choice in areas where you have a lot of delicate plants or spreading plants because the weight does prevent bulbs from blooming properly. To make sure weeds don’t peak through, use a weed fabric under the stones. You may also want to use lawn edging to keep the stones from getting spread into your yard over time.

Landscape Sheeting

If you’re trying to prevent weeds, you’ll want to lay down a layer of sheeting and put mulch down over it. Plastic sheeting is extremely effective for seasonally preventing the growth and spreading of weeds. It also retains a lot of water in your soil. You want to make sure the area you are covering has good drainage though so you don’t flood the area or cause root disease problems. Fabric sheeting is also good at stopping weed growth, and allows your soil to breathe more and soak up water easier.


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