For a lot of people, mulching seems like a pretty straightforward tool and task – just spread it over your garden soil, and you won’t have to worry about weeds anymore! Unfortunately, this is just one of the biggest mistaken notions about mulching. Below are ten more common ones that need to be corrected for your garden’s sake.
- Not clearing weeds before mulching
Mulch smothers weeds, but it won’t be very effective if you don’t weed before applying mulch. Actually, you’re more likely to cause harm to your plants if you neglect weeding as a first step because they will be harder to control under a bed of mulch. It’s important to eradicate all weeds, spores, and fungi prior to mulching to really make sure that your garden soil is weed-free.
- Not giving mulch ample time to compost
Many professional gardeners agree that composting is a great way to keep plants nourished and thriving. However, improperly composted materials, when used as mulch, could harm your plants instead of helping them. Manure, tree bark, straw, and other organic materials that aren’t composted could provide excess heat that will make plants wither and die.
Mulching is a must, and those who don’t do it are subject to a whole lot of gardening consequences (chief among them is that weeds can penetrate the thin layer of mulch). In a similar fashion, those who mulch too little would just be wasting their time, effort, and money. There is a proper way to mulch, but rest assured it isn’t about…
Too much mulching is also a big no-no. The appropriate amount of mulch to use is between two and three inches. More than that can stress the plants, especially in harsh weather. A very thick layer of mulch could also prevent water and fertilizer from getting through to the plant roots and soil which need them most.
- Choosing quantity over quality
Sure, your location may have an abundance of rocks, wood chips, or sand that can be had for cheap or for free, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best material for your gardening or landscaping needs. Wood chips, for instance, can attract termites and other insects to your garden and home. Rocks and stones radiate heat and can cause stress to plants. Choose the best quality mulching material according to your gardening and landscaping needs very carefully – consult a professional gardener if you have to.
- Uniformly mulching all the plants in your garden
Different plants require different mulching techniques. For example, annual plants and flowers don’t need a lot of mulch because it can increase humidity, which in turn could discourage blooming. Tree sizes have to be taken into consideration for the amount and the perimeter of the mulch you will use. Acid-loving plants also react differently to mulches, but they have been proven to thrive when mulched with composted materials.
As previously mentioned, there’s a variety of mulching needs for different plants, but one thing they have in common is that mulching needs to done regularly. For organic materials, this could mean total mulch replacement or replenishing every few weeks for maximum nutritional benefits. For inorganic materials like rubber mulch, a year is enough for top-ups. Checking your plants regularly and observing changes in their stems, leaves, and blooms is also a must.
- Mulching in the wrong places
There are wrong ways to mulch, and piling them up against the base of trees and roots of plants is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Gardeners refer to this as “volcano mulching” because of the shape it takes, and also the amount of heat generated by the mulch that harms the plant or trees. Don’t heap mulch around a plant; instead spread them evenly over the soil. For trees, leave a six-inch radius around the trunk free of mulch to allow the area to breathe.
- Not using mulch creatively
If you find yourself with an abundance of excess mulching materials, don’t just throw them away. Be creative about them, especially if you have a DIY project that needs extra color, texture, and shape. Rocks can line pathways and flower beds, rubber mulch can form mosaics in different colors, and autumn leaves can be gathered for fall decoration projects.
- Not thinking long-term when it comes to mulching
Mulching, for the most part, seems to be an instinctive activity where the best materials are literally just a stone’s throw away. But long-term benefits for your garden require long-term considerations. For instance, you might initially balk at the price tag of rubber mulch, but weighing the convenience and benefits it provides with the short-term pros of other mulches could prove to be illuminating.