Proper mulching is among the most essential elements of beautiful and healthy landscaping. Mulch helps beds with flowers, bushes, and trees, and other areas appear neat and well-maintained. At the same time, proper mulch installation promotes effective plant growth and reduces the need to water your plants. While mulching has many benefits, it is essential to consider the different types of mulch and weigh their advantages and disadvantages to maximize your benefits.

We will cover those issues in the blog post, along with providing advice on how to prepare your beds for mulch installation and how to ensure your mulch is properly installed.

Choosing the Right Type of Mulch

Proper mulch installation limits weed growth, retains moisture, returns nutrients to the soil, and is aesthetically pleasing. A layer of mulch inhibits sunshine from encouraging weed growth while shading the ground to limit evaporation. Mulch composed of organic material also breaks down to enrich the soil and promote the development of desirable plantings.

Wood chips, bark, straw, gravel, and rubber are common mulch types, and each can be desirable depending on your needs. Wood chips are inexpensive, available in different colors, install easily, and help retain moisture. Still, they can be difficult to spread evenly, and some hardwood chips do not break down easily.

The bark is highly effective at blocking sunlight and retaining moisture, though it can be expensive and tends to break down quickly. While it feeds the soil well, you must replace it more often than other mulch types.

Among the more affordable options, straw helps insulate beds from heat and cold. However, it does not hold moisture well and does not fit aesthetically in many situations.

Gravel is an alternative for minimizing mulch maintenance since it does not decompose like organic materials. However, gravel’s upfront costs are higher, and it does not insulate or retain moisture well. Some also prefer gravel aesthetically.

Rubber gravel’s advantages and disadvantages are like gravel. Being manufactured, it is available in many colors and is effective near fire pits because stray sparks or embers will not ignite it. Click to read more about different mulch types.

Making Your Bed, Properly

Among the common misperceptions about mulch is the belief that it effectively covers and kills problem weeds. While partially true, proper mulch installation is akin to applying a coat of paint because the surface needs preparation. Just as many surfaces need to be scraped or primed before applying a coat of paint, the bed needs preparation before applying the mulch.

The first step in preparing your bed is removing unwanted plant life, such as weeds, unhealthy plants, and the remnants of last year’s planting. You should also remove all extraneous debris. The failure to remove the unwanted materials makes spreading the mulch more difficult and increases the likelihood of weeds and volunteer plant growth during the growing season.

Aerating or turning over the topsoil is also recommended. Aerating allows the uprooting and removal of unwanted plants and root systems below the bed’s surface. Aeration also opens up the soil, giving air and water greater access to the subsurface. It reduces runoff, allows rain to soak into the ground, and enhances the growth of new root systems.

Another commonly missed step in bed preparation is soil enhancement. Many beds lack the desired soil composition, so adding peat moss, compost, manure, or other materials to the soil can pay significant dividends in the current and future growing seasons. Decisions on which materials to use for amending your soil depend on the current state of your beds, your intended plantings, and other factors.

Preparing the edges of your beds is another essential and underappreciated task. Some prefer to create their edges manually, effectively creating a shallow trench around the bed. This approach can be very practical and attractive, though it can require additional maintenance to maintain the sharp edge.

Others prefer to line their edges, most often with black plastic liners. Two common mistakes when using liners are using shallow liners and failing to secure the liners. Liners only several inches deep are less expensive than their deeper cousins and can be installed with shallower trenching. However, if the root system of the grass or other plant life outside the bed is deeper than your liner, it will quickly enter your bed, adding to your maintenance and reducing its aesthetic appeal. In addition, the liners need to be secured by spikes or other means to avoid them being pushed above the surface by the root systems and free-thaw cycles. To learn more about bed preparation, click here.

Selecting Your Mulch Color

Your mulch type will affect your color choices, but most types provide at least a few options. Darker mulches absorb more heat and tend to fade more rapidly than lighter mulches, so the amount of sunlight and rain the bed receives can affect your color choice. Otherwise, personal preference and your desire to match or contrast the mulch color with nearby buildings, patio materials, outdoor furniture, and other objects are the main factors in color choice.

Installing Mulch Like A Pro

In some respects, the mulch installation is the easiest part of the process, though there are several key recommendations here as well. Installing the mulch in all your beds at once is generally the most cost-effective due to buying in bulk and paying one delivery charge.

The best method of transporting the mulch to the beds and the initial spreading of the mulch depends on the mulch type, but the final spreading of the mulch should be performed on your hands and knees. Typically, mulch should be two to three inches deep, with wood chips, bark, and straw on the deeper side. Smoothing the mulch by hand ensures your mulch has enough depth to reduce weed growth while avoiding deeper pockets, especially around the base of trees and bushes.

After properly spreading the mulch, tamping it down, and thoroughly watering it, the material settles and begins to protect your landscaped bed.

Are you looking to learn more about installing mulch?

Getting to Work

Whether you plan to install or hire your mulch, these tips will help you make effective choices when selecting your materials and executing or monitoring the preparation and installation process. Choosing the right mulch type for your needs and ensuring the proper preparation of the beds will help you reap the full benefits of appropriate mulch installation for this and future seasons.

Exit mobile version