How To: Mulching For Happy, Healthy Landscaping
While it seems simple, we often get questions about using mulch in landscaping. Because of the variety of uses, types of mulch, and application options, it can be a little more complex than many would imagine. We’re going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions so that you have the information you need to make decisions about the role mulch will play in your landscape design.
While there are inorganic mulches such as rubber and rock, in this article we’ll be discussing wood-based mulches.
Why should I use mulch?
Mulch is one of the nine principles of the Florida-Friendly Yard. It has aesthetic, environmental, and cost-saving benefits.
- Mulch retains moisture, allowing plants more time to absorb water before evaporation, and thereby saving you money on irrigation costs.
- Areas of the landscape that are inhospitable to plant growth can be covered with mulch as an attractive alternative to leaving the area bare.
- As it decomposes, mulch adds nutrients to the soil. This improves the nutrient value, drainage, and structure of the soil, making it more beneficial to plants.
The ways you use mulch will depend on the goals you have for enjoying your outdoor spaces and the different features of your property. A local landscape designer will be able to discuss how you’d like to utilize your space and look at any potential problem areas to determine the best use of mulch in your landscaping.
Is there a right way to spread mulch?
Mulch can be great for suppressing weeds, controlling irrigation costs, and providing aesthetic interest to your yard. Improperly applied, it can cause problems for new and established plants, or deteriorate quickly, incurring additional costs to keep your lawn looking great.
Mulch should be applied at a depth of about four inches, as it will eventually settle to a two to three-inch depth. One important thing to keep in mind when selecting a mulch type is how it will hold up over time. Hardwood mulches resist settling for a year to two years, depending on the severity of the storm season.
When mulching around trees, extend the mulch to the drip-line or beyond for maximum benefits. Avoid “volcano mulching” or mulching high on the base of other plants. We usually see this most with smaller trees. This causes the mulch to trap moisture against the plant, leading to rot and fungus. This is especially true in Gainesville during the rainy season.
What kind of mulch is the best?
The type of mulch you use will depend on the individual needs of your yard and your own personal preferences. There are a variety of mulches available that come from many different sources. Below is a list of some types of mulch you may see used in Gainesville landscaping.
- Pine bark is the by-product of turning pine into lumber. It’s attractive, common in Gainesville landscaping, and it smells great.
- Hardwood made from recycled wood. It’s treated to control seeds and insects, and it comes in a variety of colors.
- Pine straw is the by-product of trees from plantations, where they are grown for paper and wood. One benefit of pine straw is that it knits together and doesn’t wash away easily.
- Utility mulch is an inexpensive option for Gainesville landscapes. Utility mulch is not treated, so it contains seeds and cuttings that can germinate and take root in your landscape. As such, we suggest it be used only as ground-cover for bare areas.
- Cypress mulch is available but is not recommended in a Florida-Friendly Yard, as it is sometimes sourced from old-growth Cypress groves.
When you work with a professional designer, they’ll make recommendations for mulch that take your overall aesthetic goals, environmental concerns, and specific uses into consideration.
While mulch seems like a pile of humble wood chips, it can make a huge difference in protecting the investment you’ve made in your landscape. Keep your plants healthy and happy and improve curb appeal by selecting the right type of mulch and using it properly.