The Truth About Mulch

When it comes to plant or tree beds, many homeowners prefer to use bark mulch to dress up the look. But there is so much more value to using mulch than most people ever realize. It’s true, bark mulch does have a nice aesthetic appeal and definitely looks better than bare soil, but bark mulch has greater benefits than just aesthetic.

Bark mulch is a natural product that generally comes from green-waste materials that can be found on construction sites. Construction projects generally produce a fair amount of debris, whether it’s from the land that was cleared, the lumber used etc. This debris must be properly disposed of. Instead of burning it and polluting our air, companies such as Vision Recycling (Garden App’s sister company) are able to take the debris and recycle it into a reusable product such as bark mulch.

The addition of bark mulch to any landscape or garden is a benefit that goes well beyond the decorative touch it adds. Here are just a few of the benefits you can expect when using bark mulch:

  • Cuts annual weed growth by as much as 90%, reducing labor costs involved for weeding

  • Decreases the cost of having to purchase herbicide (and also protects the environment from the application of herbicide)

  • Helps to retain soil moisture, thereby conserving water and cutting the cost of irrigation

  • Keeps the heat of the sun away from the roots, keeping them cooler and allowing the plant to thrive in a better environment

  • Erosion is lessoned or controlled with the use of heavier mulches as it slows or diverts the run-off from heavy rains and helps soil to remain in place

  • Decomposes over time, becoming nutrient rich soil

Now that you know some of the benefits of using bark mulch, it’s time to determine which type of bark mulch to use, and how much you will need. There are a variety of mulches on the market from which to choose. Your decision is simply based on which one you prefer for its aesthetic appeal. In addition to the mulch you choose, we recommend also including a type of mulch commonly referred to in the landscape industry as soil amendment. Although this type of mulch does not provide you with the same aesthetic benefits, it is a beneficial mixture to the soil that is used for planting. It is rich in nutrients to help your plants grow in a healthy environment.

How to apply bark mulch to any landscape is more important than which type to choose. The first step is to determine the square footage of the area where mulch is to be added. If you don’t already know how to determine square footage, you simply multiply the length of the area times the width. This will help to determine how much mulch is necessary. For example, three cubic yards of mulch will cover anywhere from 320 to 1,000 square feet depending on the depth of mulch in the bed. Most landscape beds or gardens should have a depth of no less than 1” and no more than 3” of mulch. It is recommended to keep mulch around 2” deep, which requires approximately 6 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet.

Before adding mulch to a landscape bed for the first time, be sure to prep the area by:

  • Removing weeds and other debris

  • Applying a pre-emergent

  • Trim plants and trees as necessary

  • Loosen or cultivate the soil

  • Edge the beds and smooth the area by raking

This preparation will assist in the appearance of the landscaping as well as allow for better air and water absorption to the roots.

Keep in mind that although bark mulch is beneficial to the plants or trees, too much mulch can be detrimental to your landscape. Mulch should never be piled against tree trunks as it can harbor disease. It is best to keep a space of approximately 6” between trees and mulch, and a space of approximately 3” from other plants (such as shrubs or other woody type plants) and mulch.

Also, beware of any mulch that has an aroma of vinegar or ammonia. It is a sign of “sour mulch” which contains toxic gases due to improper composting by the manufacturer. Return or dispose of this mulch as it can be deadly to your trees and plants.

The addition of bark mulch to any landscaping enhances the look to your home while also enriching the trees and plants with nutrients, allowing them the opportunity to flourish and grow.

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