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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mulch is the No. 1 secret to low maintenance gardening. Apply it in a layer 2 to 3 inches thick, and it will help suppress weeds (less weeding for you) and reduce water evaporation from soil (less watering for you). Maintain mulch by applying a fresh layer as needed to maintain that ideal depth. In warm regions, you may need to apply mulch twice a year. In zones with cold winters, an annual mulch should be sufficient.
It’s important to cover soil beneath tomatoes with a mulch of some kind, such as straw, grass clippings, compost or shredded leaves. Many tomato diseases spend part of their time living in soil. When rain hits soil, particles splash up and can land on lower tomato leaves, leading to a disease outbreak. Covering soil is one way to help control tomato diseases. Mulch also helps soil stay moist, which helps ensure a hefty tomato crop. Another reason to mulch is that it suppresses weeds.
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.
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