Maintaining Mulched Areas

Using mulch is a great way to add visual interest to the landscape. It can be used to create a neat appearance and help define the edges of planting beds. It also has a variety of excellent benefits.

Once mulch has been applied, it is relatively easy to maintain…but, mulch can also look messy if not contained in a planting bed or other area such as a path.

Considerations for Maintaining Mulched Areas

  • Use raised edging materials to keep mulch

How to Apply Mulch

General Rules of Thumb for Applying Mulch 

  • Do not exceed about  3 inches in depth depending on type (coarse organic mulch can be applied more thickly than fine mulch)
  • Avoid compacting fine organic mulches
  • Avoid applying organic mulch too early in the spring or in the fall
  • Inorganic mulches should be used with appropriate designs such as xeriscape, rock gardens and Japanese gardens
  • Place mulch near base of plants but not mounded up around it (particularly trees)

Examples of Organic

Where to Use Mulch

Using mulch in the landscape is one of the seven steps or principles of xeriscape design. Mulch helps conserve water by reducing evaporation from exposed soil surfaces. Be sure to use the correct mulch type and depth for the site and plant type.

Roots of some very drought tolerant plants do not tolerate too much soil moisture. Avoid using organic mulches around these plants.

Places Where Mulch Can be Used

  • Raised beds
  • Parking strips
  • Annual and perennial planting beds

Problems with Organic Mulches

By following some simple rules, mulch can be an effective way to conserve water, add organic matter to the soil, and keep annual weeds from germinating.

Organic mulches consist of plant material that eventually breaks down in the soil.

Common mistakes include applying a mulch layer that is too thick and mounding a mulch “volcano” around shrub and tree trunks. Overmulching with more than about 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch can cause a variety of problems.

Problems Created

Problems with Inorganic Mulches

Although inorganic mulches can be used to create attractive and low maintenance planting beds, they also can create a few problems.

Problems With Inorganic Mulch:

  • Large areas of inorganic mulch may increase soil temperature
  • Avoid black plastic – it does not allow water, nutrients or air to penetrate the soil
  • Inorganic mulches do not provide nutrients to plants
  • Rubber mulch may be harmful to plants

A Note on Weed Barrier or Landscape Fabrics:

Weed barrier fabric does not work well …