How To Use Mulch in a Yard or Garden
Mulching serves several purposes. It provides temperature control for the soil, helps to retain moisture, reduces weeds, protects plants from disease and when organic mulch is used, it improves the soil texture, adds nutrients and encourages earthworms.
What Type of Mulch
A wide variety of materials can be used as mulch. To minimize cost and make use of yard waste, you can use materials that your yard already produces. Autumn leaves, lawn clippings, compost and pine needles are all suitable for use as mulch. Other organic materials include sawdust, straw, hay, wood chips, wood bark and shredded redwood. Inorganic materials include synthetic weed block, gravel and shredded rubber.
When to Mulch
Mulching is beneficial year round, but how it is applied differs by season. Warm weather mulch is typically applied in the spring. Warmer climate zones will probably use warm weather mulch year round.
Climates with freezing weather should apply cold weather mulch after two or three days of sustained freezing temperatures.
Mulch should be removed and replaced every year.
How is Mulch Applied
In warm weather, a 1 to 2 inch layer is used to keep the soil cool and to hold in moisture. Avoid using too much as it can lead to a variety of problems. The mulch should not come in contact with the stem of the plant; leave a space of about one inch.
In cold weather, mulch should be several inches thick. The insulating effect of the mulch helps to prevent frost heave. Be sure to remove the excess mulch in the spring. Don't use grass clippings for deep winter mulch as it will develop mold.
Mulch for trees should extend out to the drip edge (the reach of the branches).
Leaves should be chopped before use. Use a mulching blower/vac or a lawnmower to accomplish this task.
When using a sythentic weed block, a thin layer of mulch should be used as a top cover.