Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Why, When, and How of Mulching

We all know that it's good to mulch your beds periodically because it makes your yard look tidy and fresh which keeps the neighbors happy, right?

But there's more to mulching that just aesthetics! We're here to tell you all you need to know about mulching so that you can make informed decisions about mulching your yard this season!

Why Mulch?
Mulching benefits your landscape in several ways, most of which are very important to the health of your plants and soil:

1. Mulching helps promote water retention around the root structures of your plants making rainfall and irrigation more effective and protecting your plants during hot, dry conditions.
2. Mulching also protects your plants during the cold: a proper mulch layer around your plants' root systems helps to prevent frost heave and protect against winter damage to your plants.
3. Mulching helps suppress weed growth: a proper layer of mulch helps to diminish the number of weed seeds that germinate in your beds. Let's face it, we all want fewer weeds!
4. Mulch also helps reduce erosion of valuable topsoil. Bare soil is easily carried away from your beds with the wind, rain, snow melt, or even human and animal traffic. A proper layer of mulch protects your valuable topsoil and preserves your healthy growing sites.

When Should You Have Your Landscape Mulched?
The best time to mulch is between early December and mid-late February. There are several reasons to mulch during this time:
1. Mulching during this time of year gives you the best value for your investment! Material is often less expensive and it is faster and easier for those spreading the mulch to get proper coverage when perennials and plant leaves are gone for the winter.
2. Mulching during December, January, and February protects plants' roots from cold and freezing which is critical to plant success.
3. Mulching during December, January, and February allows the soil to retain moisture necessary during the spring growth flush, which will help your plants look great when they put on new growth.
4. Once the leaves have fallen and your plants go dormant, mulching gives your landscape a fresh, tidy appearance for the holidays and winter months.

How Should You Have Your Landscape Mulched?
It is important to mulch properly in order to reap the benefits of mulching:
1. When mulching is complete you should have a mulch covering approximately 3 " thick spread throughout your beds. Areas prone to rapid decomposition should be considered and mulched accordingly.
2. Mulch should never build up around the trunks of trees and shrubs as it may retain water near the trunk and promote disease. Mulch around trees and shrubs should maintain the ideal 3" depth.
3. You should have your beds mulched every year or every other year depending on the decomposition rate of your site. Ideally, you want a healthy covering of mulch throughout the year, so if your mulch has decomposed considerably in one year's time, you should have your beds re-mulched.

Hope we were able to shed some light on the Why, When and How of Mulching!

Thanks for stopping by!

(All information is supported by numerous papers, studies and texts published and used by Virginia Tech and the Virginia Cooperative Extension.)

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