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HOFFMANN: Don't get in too deep, mulch with care

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I receive so many questions about mulching, such as: when should it be done; how much should I put down, what color is best?  

First, let's discuss why we mulch. Mulching performs several basic functions: appearance, insulation, weed control, and water conversation.

Nothing will dress up your landscape beds like a new layer of mulch. I am often asked what color is better, and to me, that is just personal preference.

I use brown hardwood mulch as it is less expensive than colored mulch, yet admit that the black mulch looks a little better.  

The issue I have with black mulch (other than cost) is that brown mulch is usually mixed with coal dust to make it black.

If you have pets this can be tracked into the house, especially when wet.  

I have also used red mulch in some areas just to provide a little 'punch' to an area.

I have one large garden at the back of the property and I use pine mulch for that.  

It is not only cheaper than hardwood mulch, but I can complete the job in about two hours.

Twelve-cubic-yards of mulch would take this old man over a day to install, at least 100 trips with the wheelbarrow, and a half bottle of pain killer for my back.  

Too much of a good thing, however, is bad and can cause problems overtime.

Most people apply mulch to deep.  

In general, mulch should be applied to a depth of two to four inches. This depth is sufficient to keep light from reaching weed seeds at the soil surface, minimizing weeds in your beds.  

I often see piles of mulch piled high around trees, which is not the correct method of mulching trees.  This actually creates several problems.

Water will actually run off this raised mound, diverting water away from the roots.   

Mulch should be applied to maintain a flat or slightly indented area across the top, so water will run toward the root ball, not away from it.  

Do not place mulch directly against the trunk of the tree. Leave an area of about three inches around the trunk that is not mulched.  

Mulches generally provide a food source for micro organisms, mainly fungi.  

The fungal threads will grow throughout the mulch forming a thick mat.  

If you dig into the mulch you will likely reveal a white, dusty mass of fungal threads, with a possible mushroom odor.  The mulch and soil will be dry, as water cannot penetrate this hard surface.  

Mulching over the old layer will add to the problem.  

It is a good idea to remove or break up the old mulch before adding more mulch.

Before mulching you may consider starting all over by removing your old mulch, and try some of these practices.

Before mulching put down some fertilizer so you are not fertilizing over the mulch.  Some types of mulches may prevent fertilizer from reaching the soil.  

Though I am not a huge believer in insecticides unless needed, I will usually apply insecticide as well, especially for landscape beds around the house and wooden deck.  

This will help prevent insects from getting into the house.  Mulch should never be placed against the house or deck, leaving about a one foot space between mulch and the house.  

To help with watering I place drip hoses in my beds.  

This allows me to apply water to the specific area I want to water.  

This not only conserves water, but prevents plants from getting wet. Many plants, such as roses, do not like wet leaves.

Moisture and humidity can cause disease issues on select plants.

There is more to mulching than most people realize.  

I hope this helps, as these tips will likely save you time and money.
Tagged under  Donn Hoffmann, Garden, Landscaping, Voices

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