Every spring and every fall, we see mulch trucks out in force and freshly tended beds around our neighborhoods and businesses.
Besides providing a well-manicured appearance, mulch serves many useful purposes. A two or three inch thick layer of mulch helps to control weeds, retain moisture in the soil during hot summer days, adds to the soil's fertility through decomposition, keeps the soil temperature from fluctuating, and prevents erosion.
There are many different types of mulch to choose from.
Shredded hardwood and shredded licorice root is easy to apply and performs well in any situation, especially slopes where erosion control is needed. Because it is shredded, it will decompose quickly and should be reapplied in both the spring and the fall.
Pine bark and pine bark nuggets are larger and bulkier. They are excellent mulches that retain their color throughout the season, and are slower to decompose which reduces the frequency of reapplication.
Cedar mulch generally will not decompose; however, it loses its color rather quickly when exposed to the elements.
Applying mulch is easy. A three-inch depth is sufficient to achieve the maximum benefit from mulching. Apply a pre-emergent before spreading mulch to eradicate any weed seeds that may be present on top of the soil. Give the soil a thorough soaking. Be sure to keep the mulch from covering shrub and tree trunks. The mulch tends to heat up in the sun, and it contains microbes that aid in decomposition. Both can be damaging to bark if it is in direct contact over a long period of time.