Maintaining Mulched Areas


Border edging keeps mulch from spilling onto the path in this landscape. Photo credit: pistildesigns Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0


A deeply dug edge creates a well defined garden bed and keeps mulch in place. Gregory Garnich Flickr CC BY 2.0


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 …

How to Apply Mulch


Bark mulch is sold in bags or in bulk at landfills and landscape materials companies.
Photo source: geosteph Flickr CC NC-BY-SA 2.0




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,

Where to Use Mulch


Inorganic gravel mulch used in a xeriscape cactus garden.
Photo credit: Clare Wilkinson Flickr CC BY 2.0

Bark mulch used on a path through a garden area where edging is not needed. Photo credit: trippedamine Flickr CC BY 2.0

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 …

Problems with Organic Mulches


Mulch is mounded too thickly around the base of these trees.
Photo credit: Extension Gardens, Lawns, and Landscapes CC BY-NEC-SA 2.0

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 …

Benefits of Mulching: Moisture Retention

Benefits of Mulching: Moisture Retention

Mulching has many benefits. One of the beneficial effects of mulching is moisture retention. This is an invaluable practice when creating a water-wise landscape. In this section, we will discuss the ways mulch helps retain moisture and what mulches to avoid for moisture retention.

How does mulch help moisture retention?

Moisture is lost through a variety of ways. Evaporation of moisture from soils accounts for a large amount of moisture loss on hot, windy …

Types of Mulch: Organic Mulch

  Wood chips used as mulch in a bed along a fence. Photo Credit: Mike Hyatt Flickr CC BY-NC-CA 2.0
  A layer of leaves is added to this garden bed. Photo credit: savvygardensphotos Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Organic mulches are materials that are or once were living plant materials that are placed on the soil surface to prevent erosion, weed germination, and reduce evaporation.

Organic materials such as bark, wood chips, and newspaper can be used. Most are effective weed barriers. …

Types of Mulch: Inorganic Mulch


Weed barrier fabric cut around plants.
Photo credit: DBarefoot Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

  Gravel used as mulch in this California front yard
  Photo credit: Steve and Michell Gerdes Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.

Many materials have been used as mulches. Inorganic materials, anything not living, such as rocks and plastic can be used. Most are effective weed barriers. Cost, availability and aesthetics are all elements that factor into choosing a type of mulch.

Types of Inorganic Mulch

Weed barrier and …

Types of Mulch

  Gravel is available in different sizes and colors
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
  Bark is a very popular mulch and comes in different sizes and colors
Photo credit: R23W Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Choosing the correct mulch material is important when planning a water wise landscape. Mulch can increase water retention in soil, however, using organic mulch with some very drought tolerant plants can cause too much moisture to be retained and potentially cause root rot.

There …