Mulch & Landscaping Ground Covers

MulchIt may not seem like spring time is ever going to come, but in the next few weeks we will be seeing the tell tale signs that spring is in the air. This is a great time of the year to cover barren ground you may have in your yard or your new/existing garden. Mulching is not a new thing either. Trees have been providing mulch for thousands of years. They drop their needles or leaves which create a layer of organic material. There are many functions that ground covers serve, but the main importance it serves is cover to soil. The layer of leaves or needles help retain moisture, it helps add organic material to the roots of the plant, and creates a recycling of nutrients.

What types of mulches would I use, you say? That’s a good question. There are two main classes of mulches; organic and inorganic. Here are six different types of organic ground covers.

  1. The most widely used organic mulch is shredded bark mulches. It is usually made from pine or hardwood trees from the region and is resistant to decomposition.
  2. Wood chips are another great source of ground cover people use. You want chips that are greater than three inches because it prevents chips from compacting. Only use fresh chips. Aged chips have chemical products that can be toxic to youthful plants.
  3. Saw dust mulches are very cheap and affordable mulches. Check your sawdust beds often because they usually compact and form a mat that does not allow water to penetrate.
  4. Lawn clippings are great to leave on the lawn. They help recycle nutrients.
  5. Leaves are a very attractive and leave a natural presence. They trap water and cause a wet environment that allows decay and fungus.
  6. Pine straw is good mulch that is gaining popularity in residential and commercial landscapes.

Inorganic mulches consist of gravel, brick chips, and crushed stone. You will want to add a fabric layer before you apply these ground covers. This helps keep weeds from growing through the inorganic mulches. These types of mulches are permanent and are suggested for places where no future planning will be done.

When applying mulches, you will want to have at least 2 inches of thickness with 4 inches as your max. Applying it too thin will not serve its function of conserving moisture, reducing moisture, or providing any other benefits of the mulch. Also, be careful placing mulch too close to tree trunks or plant stems. It will keep the tissue of the tree or plant too wet setting up an environment for insect and diseases to move into the stem or trunk. You will lose a tree or plant very quickly.

Brandon Chatham

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