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 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 …

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

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 days. …

Types of Mulch: Organic Mulch

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. Cost, availability, and aesthetics are all elements that factor into choosing a type of mulch.

Types of Organic Mulch

  • Pine bark, pine needles, wood chips are all aesthetically pleasing. Pine bark can easily move and be

Types of Mulch: Inorganic Mulch

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 landscape fabric

  • Prevents growth of most annual weeds
  • Allows for the exchange of water and oxygen
  • Apply directly onto the soil and fastened to the soil to avoid movement
  • Works well with

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 …