A long-lasting organic mulch option is pine bark or shredded bark, according to experts at The Morton Arboretum in Illinois. You can purchase bags of small or large chips. Other types of organic mulch are grass clippings, as well as animal manure (mixed with a coarse-textured material). Composted leaf litter will work, but it may increase weeds if not thoroughly composted.
Tinted mulch is an easy and inexpensive way to bring visual interest to your yard. Wade likes to use black mulch to set off green foliage and uses brown-tinted mulch in more naturalistic areas. Mulch also brings a crips, tailored edge and helps you define your garden borders.
Consider lava rock as a mulch in xeriscape gardens or around shrubs, succulents or other plantings that won’t change much over time. This type of rock is lightweight compared to traditional stone mulch, which makes it easier to haul and handle without professional help. Individual rock edges tend to be sharp. Stone mulch doesn’t ever break down or disappear—it’s a permanent addition to the landscape. Place it on a layer of landscape fabric to prevent rocks from sinking into soil.
Too much mulch can be harmful. The Morton Arboretum says that excessive mulch mounded around the base of a tree can cause decay of the vital tissue at the root collar. When decay occurs, serious disease organisms may more readily enter the plant. Mulch is correctly applied around this tree.
When mulch is placed right next to the tree base, you can see the ill effects of the mulch on the trunk, says Josh Fuder, agriculture and natural resources agent for UGA Extension - Cherokee County. Too much moisture will gather around the base and the bark can decay.
Pull mulch away from the bases of tree, creating a donut-hole affect, advises The Morton Arboretum in Illinois. The mulched area should extend to the drip line of the tree branches, or at least cover a 4-5 foot diameter area around the trunk.
This type of mulch distribution is known among landscapers as “volcano mulching.” This is the wrong way to mulch a tree. Piling mulch against the trunk can provide the right environment for fungi to start attacking the trunk. It also gives critters like voles and mice a place to nest and rest while they chew away the tree’s bark. Spread mulch in a 2- to 3-inch layer beneath the dripline of the tree (where the leaves are). Keep mulch pulled back from the trunk to permit airflow to the trunk.
A winter mulch can be a gardener’s best friend, especially around new additions to the landscape. That extra mulch layer can help prevent frost heave around new plants that may not have an extensive root system to help keep them anchored in soil as it freezes and thaws. Put a 2-inch-thick layer around the base of plants to insulate roots and
Turn to decorative stone mulch when you want to give plantings a formal ambience. Stone comes in a variety of colors and shapes. River rock usually has smooth, rounded edges, while quartz is more jagged. Stone mulch doesn’t degrade over time and doesn’t usually need replaced if it’s seated on landscape fabric. You might need to refresh the top layer of stones at times if it fades or discolors.
Here's a general rule for when to mulch a yard: Wait until after a hard frost in the fall to apply winter mulch. You don't want to apply it too early in the fall because mulch can delay the soil freezing process by retaining heat in the soil, according to experts with The Morton Arboretum in Illinois.
The recommended mulch depth is 3-4 inches for medium to coarse textured materials, says experts with The Morton Arboretum. Spread mulch under trees, shrubs and throughout planting beds, as seen at this home, handcrafted by OakBridge Timber Framing, on a 5-acre lot on the shores of Lake Erie, Ohio.