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Mulch, why and how?

Mulch, why and how?

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

 

Drive around Hot Springs AR and it will not take long to see it. Landscapes with great curb appeal with beds full of bright beautiful mulch. But why do we do it? Many have it installed simply for appearance and that alone is worth it. However proper mulch installation can be a huge benefit for a home’s landscaping.

 

Additional benefits of mulch application include:

 

· Temperature regulation for the roots of the plants its applied around.

 

· Suppresses weeds by preventing access to soil and by blocking light from any seeds that take root.

 

· Reduces the need for watering shrubs, plants, and trees during the brutal summer period in Hot Springs Arkansas.

 

· Provides vital nutrients to the soil. In fact, it can provide up to 25% of the annual fertilizer. This can eliminate 1 out of every 4 needed fertilizer applications for the landscape.

 

· Prevents soil erosion and run off.

 

· Encourages earth worms to come into the beds which will naturally aerate the soil, forming paths for water and air to reach the roots of plants. They also help to circulate nutrients throughout the various layers of soil acting as natural underground tillers.

 

Synthetic and stone landscape coverings

 

While stone mulch and synthetic mulch are long lasting solutions, they do not offer the benefits listed above. In fact, a stone bed covering in the summer can radiate heat towards the plant in our blistering summers. Synthetic rubber mulch often made of chopped up tires over time begin to leech toxins and metals into the soil harming the health of the landscape over time. Whatever cost that is saved in annual mulch applications with these methods is lost once you start hiring out the services that are naturally provided by organic mulch.

 

Organic mulch options

 

Only a natural wood mulch or leaf mulch will provide all the benefits listed above without consequence if applied properly. While leaf mulch can be an effective economical solution most homeowners in Hot Springs Arkansas adorn their landscapes with dyed mulch. At times, our customers have had concerns about the dyes used to color the mulch. Generally, as long a high-quality mulch has been used, the vegetable dyes used to color the mulch will be harmless. Cheaper mulch however may be dyed with harmful toxic chemicals bad for the installer and the health of the landscape. A greater concern than the dye however is where the wood was sourced from. A good mulch will be made of cedar which can naturally repel insects, pine bark or some other unused wood material. Cheaper mulches incorporate recycled wood products which on the surface appears to be a great thing. Unless you end up with pallets treated using CCA or recycled construction materials. Even pallets that have not been treated with CCA could have been exposed to all sorts of chemicals including battery acid, motor oil, and who knows what else. Any number of harmful chemicals could have soaked into the wood from leaky freight. When it comes to mulch the saying you get what you pay for rings true.

 

How much and how to apply it

 

General recommendation is 2 to 4 inches with 5 to 6 inches being considered the thickest amount that should be applied. A fine mulch such as shredded leaves will suffice with a much thinner layer than say a coarse chunky wood chip mulch. Most of our customers prefer an organic wood chip mulch which we like to apply to a depth of around 4 inches deep if little to no mulch is present. If last years mulch is still present and benefiting the soil but has lost it color, then we typically add around 2 inches to brighten things back up.

 

How much is too much, what is so bad about too much mulch, and other considerations

 

Anything over 4 inches can begin to become problematic if applied incorrectly. Smaller trees and sapling’s roots can begin to take root in this loose mulch layer rather than the solid soil beneath it. An excessively thick layer can also begin to smoother the roots below and retain an unnecessary amount of moisture. Another consideration is the existing condition of the soil in the bed. If it already has problems with draining excess water, then a thinner layer of mulch might be needed in that spot to prevent exacerbating the problem while still providing the benefits and aesthetics of mulch. How thick the mulch should be applied can vary from bed to bed due to these reasons. While keeping our landscapes from drying out in the summer months is important it is a classic example of too much of a good thing can become a problem.

 

When it comes to getting the most out of your mulch there is a lot to consider, from where you buy it to how you install it. An installer needs to have plenty of experience and an eye for detail or more harm can be done than good.

 

Zach Poole

 

Advance Lawn Care – promoting healthy landscapes for Hot Springs Arkansas

501-617-2773

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