Mulch is a balancing act.  Too much and you can be working against your trees and plants.  Not enough and you’re working against yourself (because you’re the one doing it).

A little mulch goes a long way.  So, let’s talk about mulching and how to do it right.

Organic or inorganic?

Most horticulturists and landscapers prefer organic mulch, which is composed of materials like pine needles, leaves, bark and wood chips.  These are preferred, because they offer your growing things nutrients, which enter the soil as the materials compose.  While they need to be replenished as the decomposition process takes place, they give your garden what it needs.

Inorganic mulches don’t need to be replenished, because they don’t decompose.  They’re made up of things like stone, pulverized rubber and lava rock.  Because they’re permanent, they’re less work.  They’re also good for maintaining soil moisture.  But your garden receives no nutritional benefit.

What mulch does.

Besides giving your garden a tidy, well-groomed appearance, mulches can do a lot for the health of your plants and the soil they grow in.  For one, they help prevent the loss of moisture through evaporation.

Over time, mulch also prevents soil erosion and can inhibit the presence of diseases that may attack your plants.  You’ll find that you’ll have fewer weeds with proper mulching too.

Don’t overdo it.

Particularly with organic mulch, there’s the temptation to continue replenishing it to maintain a fresh appearance, but appearances aren’t everything.  If you add to existing mulch before it’s had a chance to decompose, you can hurt your plants by provoking root rot.  This occurs when there’s too much moisture.  As with everything in life and nature, balance is key.

The proper depth for mulch should be no more than 4 inches and no less than 2, with the proper drainage.  Remember than over-mulching can create conditions which attract rodents and lead to the production of unpleasant odors.

That’s why a little mulch goes a long way.  Overdoing it can be worse than not doing it at all.

Mulch right.

Key to knowing your limits with mulching is your property’s drainage.  If you have drainage issues, you’ll need less mulch, as the soil’s retaining the water it needs more readily.

For trees, don’t forget to factor in the size of the root system, ensuring that the mulch extends outward from the trunk as far as possible to provide nutrition for the roots.

Non-composted, fine wood chips should be avoided for use around trees.  These can produce nitrogen which is absorbed by the roots and can damage your trees.  Choose composted, coarser mulch.

It’s important to know that most mulch blends (especially organic ones) work for almost all landscapes.  All the same, composition may be a factor for various types of plants.

Not sure what to do about mulch?  Call the experts at Creative Images Landscape.  We’ve been mulching gardens for years, taking the guesswork out of the operation for the homeowners of New Jersey.

Ready to mulch, but need some professional advice? Contact Creative Images.