40April 5, 2018
Why do you put mulch around the plants in your yard? You probably like the way the flower and shrub beds look after the mulch is in place. There are many reasons to put mulch around the plants.Mulch helps to hold moisture in the soil. Bare soil would allow the moisture to evaporate out of the soil. A 3-inch layer of mulch will help to inhibit the growth of weeds. A 3-inch layer of mulch will also help to temper the extremes of soil temperature.
The mulch helps to keep the soil cool in summer and also helps the soil to stay frozen in winter. Keeping the soil frozen in winter helps to prevent cycles of the soil freezing and then thawing. This alternating freezing and thawing of the soil can lead to damage to the roots of your plants.
Now that you know these things, let’s talk about applying mulch around the plants in your yard.
As I said earlier in the column, you need a 3-inch layer of mulch to be effective. If you put 3 inches of mulch down last year, you will probably only need to add a 1-inch layer of mulch this year. There is no need to remove all of last year’s mulch. As long as you maintain that 3 inches of mulch, weeds will be inhibited, moisture will be more likely to stay in the soil and the soil temperatures will not fluctuate wildly during the season.
When you are spreading the mulch around your plants, you do not want the mulch to be in contact with the stem of the plant. So often, you will see mulch mounded up around the trunk of the trees in someone’s yard. This mulch volcano will, over time, lead to the death of the tree. By having the mulch against the trunk, the bark of the tree stays wet all the time. This can lead to the tree’s bark rotting. Eventually the tree won’t be able to take up water and nutrients and the tree dies. The same thing can happen if the mulch is placed against the stem of your perennials or against the trunk of your shrubs. You should keep the mulch about an inch away from the trunk of the plant or the stem of your perennials.
Mulch is usually applied in the spring once the ground has warmed up. If you put the mulch down too early, the mulch will slow down the warming up of the soil. This will, in turn, slow down the plant from properly coming out of its winter dormancy. This spring has had a very late start, so it would be advisable to wait a while before putting mulch around your plants.
There are all kinds of mulch that you can use. If the mulch that you use is primarily from the bark of trees, the bark will act as a natural insect repellent. This will keep ants and termites from setting up shop in your flowerbeds. If the mulch is from ground up wood, stumps or the internal parts of trees, you will not get the same insect protection that you would have by using mulch that is made from the bark of trees.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.