Sunday, December 4, 2016

Perk Up Your Landscape With Mulch

Mulch has to be the single best thing you can do for your plants and have such grand results from. You can take a drab landscape, apply mulch around the plants and garden areas and by evening, that same drab landscape looks as though has been professionally maintained.

The sole purpose of mulch is to protect the soil. It should allow enough air space and for water to percolate down to the ground. There are 2 types of mulches: Organic and Inorganic.

Organic Mulches consist of:

- Wood chips
- Aged compost
- Aged manure
- Shredded Leaves
- Grass clippings
- Pine bark
- Pine needles
- Pecan shells (if you're near a factory)
- Straw (not hay as it has weed seed)
- Groundcover (phlox, vinca, purple wintercreeper, pachysandra, liriope, mondo grass, etc)

Inorganic Mulches consist of:

- Rocks
- Pebbles
- Gravel
- Crushed stone
- Crushed lava
- Black plastic
- Landscape cloth
- Ground rubber tires
- Other recycled materials

Reasons for mulching are almost unlimited. We are going to cover only a few of them. It creates enough of a defined area around trees and shrubs so that anyone with a mower or weed eater will avoid damaging the plants, and that maybe the most common reason as to the demise of younger plants. Mulching reduces and often eliminates the weed population. It insulates the soil by keeping it at a more even temperature, which is especially helpful during the spring temperature fluctuations. Mulch keeps the soil immediately around the plants cooler and moister. Organic mulch decomposes into the soil building up the nutrient values, thus reducing the need for applying fertilizer. It prevents the soil from compacting and crusting. Mulch helps to grow healthier plants and makes the landscape look neater, cleaner and more attractive.

Studies show that trees and larger shrubs without any grass up to 3 feet away from the base of the plants will increase their growth.

Too little mulch is not effective; on the other hand, too much mulch can kill a good thing (namely plants). Rather than going through a long drawn out explanation of why, when, where and with what, let's keep it simple, safe and easy to remember!

The Triple 3's to Mulching-

- 3 inches thick
- 3 feet out from the base of the plant
- 3 inch doughnut around the base of the plants (see below)

So, that's 3 deep, 3 out and 3 for the doughnut. Now, what about this doughnut? The doughnut is the welled area at the base of the plant. For proper air circulation and watering, 3 inches (roughly) is needed between the trunk of the plant and where the mulch actually begins. Mulch should never come in contact with the trunk of a shrub or tree, even in a garden setting. Stay away from the volcano look. It is a sure fire way to kill your plants. You want to keep the mulch at an even level all the way through, whether it's going 3 feet out from the trunk or in a large landscaped area. Remember: Keep It Level

How often to apply mulch really depends on the type of mulch you have chosen. Something light such as grass clippings or shredded leaves will have to be added to quite frequently as it decomposes quickly. Heavier mulches may only need to be freshened once a year. Shredded bark mulch applied in spring at 3 inches may decompose over summer, so when fall comes around, you will want to check it and possibly add more to bring it back up to the 3 inches to go over winter.

What mulch goes where!? I don't recommend using gravel or other stones as mulch in a planting area between a walk and building foundation. Several things are wrong with this picture. There are too many materials with a high level of lime. Lime often leeches out of the concrete blocks used in most foundations, of course, it's the dusting on the gravel and what are concrete walkways made of? Using this is fine as long as you don't put any plants there. Container gardening will work, but no ground planting.

Also, think about where inorganic mulches will be used before you purchase. For example, you wouldn't want to use some inorganic mulch around plants that are in full sun. Many of the inorganic types, especially rocks, gravel, and crushed lava will absorb and then radiate the heat. This can damage plants if not burn them. For areas in full sun, it is best to use organic mulches.

After absorbing this mulch information, you are probably now wondering how much mulch to get. You will need to calculate the surface area that you want to cover (square footage).

There are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. One cubic yard will cover 324 square feet with one inch of mulch. Calculate the square footage of the area you want to cover.

Take your surface square footage and multiply it by the depth you want to mulch (remember we talked about 3 inches) Now, that total is divided by 324 which will give you the total number of cubic yards that you will need for the depth that you want.

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