We Recommend Mulch
Written by: Brent Kahn, ISA Certified Arborist WI-0302A
Posted: 2022 | Tree and Shrub Care | Winter
What is Mulch? Mulch is any material that is spread or laid onto the soil surface as a covering. Mulch comes in many different forms. It can be an Organic material such as woodchips, shredded bark, colorized wood mulch (Red, Brown, Orange, etc.), leaf compost, and grass clippings just to name a few. Organic mulches are materials that were once living. There are also Inorganic mulches such as rocks, stones, and ground up rubber or plastic material.
Why should I use Mulch? Mulches look attractive and add a visual appeal to your landscape. They help to suppress and control the growth of weeds. On slopes, mulches provide erosion control and help to maintain the structural integrity of the slope. This is very important if that slope happens to be next to a lake or river. Mulches also help to protect our plants from damaging mechanical injury caused by that lawn mower or string trimmer. These are benefits you will receive from both an Organic and Inorganic mulch.
Why are Organic mulches the best choice? Organic mulches break down and decompose over time. This adds beneficial organic matter back into the soil, improving soil structure, reduces compaction and improves fertility over time. This helps supply your plants with needed nutrients. Organic mulches do a great job of moderating soil moisture and temperature. Making water available over a longer period. This does not mean that you can stop watering, it only means that it helps to maximize the water that is applied. It will keep that water where it needs to be, within the root zone of the plant. Organic mulches also help keep soil temperature more consistent. During a very hot and sunny day it keeps soil temperatures cooler. On those cold or freezing nights it keeps soil temperatures warmer. During cold winters, organic mulch helps to protect delicate roots. For these reasons, organic mulches are the superior choice and the only thing we will use to care for our plants.
How should organic mulches be applied and how often? Organic mulches need to be applied at a thickness of 2”-4”. More is not always better, as too much mulch can be smothering. Keep the mulch away from the root collar of trees and shrubs by 6” – 12”. The root collar is a delicate area at the base of a plant. Constant moisture in this area can promote fungus and decay. Over time the mulch can build up in this area and can cause stem girdling roots. Both of which can be very damaging to your plants. Organic mulches generally need to be reapplied every 1-2 years. This will depend on the type of mulch you use and the thickness it was applied. A finer mulch can decompose rapidly and tends to need reapplication every year, where a courser mulch you can usually get 2 seasons out of. Do not exceed maximum recommended depth. Before any reapplication, you should break up the existing mulch layer with a gardening tool, to help incorporate it into the existing soil. A 1”-2” thick layer of leaf compost, that is lightly incorporated into the soil, topped with a 1”- 2” thick layer of shredded bark is a prescription for healthy plants.
Who should you call? Call your Wachtel Tree Science certified arborist of course! We can help to keep your plants healthy and beautiful, and mulching is an important step in this. Reach out today.