There have been enough mild-weather days recently to definitively signal that Spring has arrived. Many homeowners may be poised and ready to schedule their mulch delivery. Are your hands getting itchy, ready to wrap themselves around shovels and slide into gardening gloves? You may be very eager to jump right into the fray of turning soil and clearing out dead leaves and debris from flower beds, but wait!
That layer of gray leaves, twigs and such may be an eyesore you are ready to be rid of. But, they are actually doing a job. They are acting as a protective layer for the topsoil of your planting areas. So, first things first. While you take the time to select the kind of mulch to use and schedule a mulch delivery, just leave things be! Find out the double shredded difference and you’ll never want to use any other type of mulch again. Once you know when to expect your delivery, then you can prepare your landscape areas.
Where It Comes From: The key to hardwood mulch popularity is in the performance of double shredded hardwood mulches. Hardwood, by its very nature, is durable and robust. It’s not called soft-wood or wimpy-wood, but hardwood. There’s a reason for such a name. To officially be a double shredded hardwood mulch, it must be derived from the right kind of tree.
The hardwood tree family is made up of the likes of hickory, pecan, maples, oaks, beech, birch, ash and walnuts. Being classified as a hardwood identifies a tree as having superior strength and resistance to damage that mars the wood. Hardwoods are the preferred source of timber for milled products like cabinetry and flooring. Top rated hardwoods are ranked as requiring more than 1,000 pounds of pressure to produce a mar on the finished surface. When used in the garden as mulch, this quality means that double shredded hardwood mulch will last much longer than other mulches.
Performance: In addition to superior strength that delivers superior performance, what, exactly, does double shredded hardwood mulch do for the landscape?
- Prevents weed germination and suppresses weed growth
- Conserves water by minimizing evaporation of water in the soil
- Has a heavier weight than other mulches which prevents scattering. In other words, it stays put so there is less housekeeping needed to keep the garden tidy.
- Enriches the underlying soil with nutrients as it biodegrades.
Aging: When shopping for double shredded hardwood mulch you may notice descriptions about how long the product has been aged. At first you may think the longer a mulch ages, the less nutritious it would be. The logical questions, then, are, “Why does aging matter? How long should a double shredded hardwood mulch be aged?”
When applying mulch to flower beds or vegetable crops, you want the mulch ready to deliver the nutrients it contains. If freshly crafted wood mulch was applied, it would take weeks, perhaps months, for the material to decompose to the state where it is soft enough to begin leaching nutrients into the soil. By the time it got around to delivering nutrient to the soil, Spring would be over!
Wood mulch that is not aged at all can actually rob the soil of vital nitrogen. It needs nitrogen in the early stages of decomposition. This creates a bad situation for freshly planted ornamentals or young plants that need all the nitrogen they can get in order to become firmly established and thrive.
Double shredded hardwood mulches that have been aged for about 4-6 months are primed and ready for application in Spring gardens. The mulch should appear dark and have a crumbly aspect to its texture. Your nose should be able to detect the distinct aroma of earthy compost.
Preparation: Mulch serves several purposes in the garden: suppressing weed growth, conserving water and enriching the soil. Before you just dump a thick layer of mulch on top of your flowerbeds, take the time to properly prepare them. Get the most out of your mulch delivery!
- Clear: Grab your rake and clear out all the debris from flower beds and planting areas (but don’t dispose of this “stuff”, save it for later).
- Weed: Get your mulch off to a good start with weed control by pulling up as many weeds as possible or snipping them close to the ground.
- Breathe: Put to use your aerator tool and give the soil a breath of fresh air. Loosening things up creates optimum soil conditions for healthy root systems.
- Edging: This is the time to repair or install edging materials that will help contain mulch, keeping it where it belongs.
- Sort & Pile: Now return to all the debris you raked out of the garden in the first place. Separate any non-organic matter. Collect remaining organic debris, like leaves and small twigs, in a pile. This organic material can be used as additional soil amendment matter, returning nutrients to the soil as it biodegrades. It is better to work it back into the soil rather than mix it with mulch because it may contain weed seeds. By being underneath a layer of mulch, even if the seed germinates, the weed will be prevented from growth because it will not receive any sunlight.
- Mulch: Now it is time for the grand finale! Lay on the mulch in a healthy, thick layer, at least 2-4 inches in depth. When mulching around trees make sure to leave a margin of about 4-6 inches between the line of mulch and the tree trunk.
Virginia and Maryland homeowners have been trusting Saunders Landscaping Service for more than two decades for their gardening supplies and mulch needs. Please contact us. An expert team member can help you select a color and determine how much mulch you need for your outdoor project. Then all you have to do is wait for your mulch delivery!