We all love the look of a freshly mulched landscape, but there are things to know about wood mulching before you spread it around all your landscape.
- Don't mix wood mulch into your soil: mulch dresses the top of your beds (it lies on the surface of the soil only) and shouldn't be tilled into the soil. Also, mulch and compost are two different things. Compost IS mixed into your soil to amend/improve it, whereas mulch is added to cut down on weeds and keep the soil more evenly moist for better plant growth.
- Keep wood mulches out of your vegetable patch: a layer of wood mulch makes it a lot more difficult to work in amongst vegetables, and it doesn't feed the soil like compost will.
- Watch out for vining/creeping plants: some plants spread by creeping stems and will grow right under mulch, so don't spread mulch near them if you can avoid it. Instead, use rock mulch where you can more easily spot the creeping plants.
- Get rid of weeds before mulching: a good layer of mulch can smother young tender weeds, but it won't eliminate more mature weeds. It's best to kill the weeds first, then mulch after or you'll see weeds popping through the mulch and continuing to spread.
- Did you know that you can over-mulch? Plants and trees need oxygen to survive, so a very thick layer of mulch can create unwanted fungi. Fungal mats can develop and repel the water you are trying to conserve. One inch - two at the most - is plenty and will save you money too.
- Don't put wood mulch close to your home's foundation because it can cause your siding to get damp and invite termites and other pests to your home. It's okay to mulch against a concrete wall, but keep mulch 6 inches away from wood or wooden structures.
- Wood mulch 'volcanoes' around trees can cause the tree's root collar to become too damp and cause it to rot. Mulch volcanoes also invite insects to bore into the trunk and make it weaker. Leave a little space between your mulch and a tree's trunk. Generally, don't pile up mulch around anything - trees, plants, perennials. Give them some space to breathe!
- Avoid using dyed mulch: some mulches contain natural dyes, but others have the dyes sprayed on and contain toxins bad for kids and pets. They can also leach into the soil and destroy beneficial microbes. Read the bag label carefully, and opt for natural mulch whenever possible.