Mulch offers three important advantages to your beds:
- Enhances moisture retention
- Reduces weed problems
- Improves appearance of the beds
Most people are aware of the advantages of using mulch, but fewer understand how to lay mulch for best results. Not unlike painting a house, most of a successful mulch application is in the preparation. The primary problem with mulch is that it scatters easily. If bed edges are not well defined, mulch will work its way out of the bed. The first step is to cut an edge or lip on the perimeter of the bed to contain the mulch and prevent spill out. Mulch performs best when it is level, and applied at a consistent thickness. A lip or edge barrier helps accomplish this.
Take care when mulching around trees and plants. It’s easy to over-mulch and create problems for the plants. In fact, if you cover the base of the plant with too much mulch, the plant becomes susceptible to a number of pest problems.
The type of mulch you use depends on what type of bed you are mulching. In vegetable gardens or seasonal color beds, it’s best to use a finished compost to provide nutrients to the plants. For shrubs and other landscaping features, choose a good hardwood mulch. This type of mulch comes in two consistencies – single and double ground. Hardwood mulch is made by running timber scraps through a grinder. One pass through the grinder yields a coarser product with more chunks. Double ground mulch is sent through the grinder for a second pass, which gives it a finer texture. Double-ground mulch costs a little more, but has a neater appearance.
A common complaint from property managers is that the mulch fades quickly, turning from a fresh brown to a dull gray a month after installation. To combat this problem, we contract directly with a mulch provider to dye our product brown. The dyed brown mulch looks a little darker than normal double ground, and holds its color for an entire season. Again, it is a bit more costly, but we believe the visual results are well worth the cost. The dyeing process also removes dust and fine particulate matter from the product, making it more effective and easier to work with.