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Spring is here, and it’s time once again to start thinking about the garden and other plant life on your property. In addition to decisions about what annual flowers and vegetables to plant, you might also want to consider applying mulch in some places. Let’s discuss mulch in some detail so you can make a more informed decision about what type of mulch you should use, and where.

Benefits of Mulch

Adding mulch to your garden has several benefits:

  • It helps prevent soil erosion which can be a problem on hilly land.
  • It inhibits evaporation which helps conserve water and reduces the need to water your plants as frequently.
  • It helps maintain a more even ground temperature.
  • It inhibits weed growth.
  • It can give your landscape a much neater, more organized appearance.

Organic vs. Inorganic

Organic mulch consists of a variety of material such as; wood chips, bark, leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, sawdust, and even strips of newspaper or magazines. Because these materials are biodegradable, they perform two important functions in landscaping: First, organic mulch provides a layer of protection to the soil it covers. Second, as it breaks down it can become a good source of nutrients for the soil. Those nutrients then become accessible to plants.

Inorganic mulch consists of any ground covering that does not biodegrade. This includes plastic sheeting, gravel, sand, and even shredded tire material. While inorganic mulch provides a layer of protection like organic mulch, it doesn’t add any nutrients to the soil. On the other hand, because it doesn’t break down, inorganic mulch won’t need to be replaced as frequently.

When and How To Apply Mulch

When you initially plant an area, you should apply two to four inches of organic mulch. Every year thereafter, you should add more mulch as a top dressing, bringing the overall depth to the two to four inch level. Mulching in the Spring will provide nutrients throughout the growing season. Mulching in the Fall will provide some protection against winter damage.

Spread mulch wide around trees, beginning a couple of inches away from the trunk. When mulching in plants beds don’t pile it right up to the stems of plants. Leave an inch or so of space between the stem and the mulch. Gently turn the mulch occasionally – taking care not to damage the plants. This helps prevent mold growth in your mulch and allows for better aeration.

If you’d like to learn more about mulch, or you have other landscaping questions, contact us online, or call 301-500-2200 (Maryland) or 703-828-1609 (Virginia).