Mulch is an essential aspect of any well landscaped garden both for its aesthetic and practical value. A garden with mulched beds makes your plants really ‘pop’ from the ground and gives an overall polished look to the area. On a practical level, mulch helps to fertilize and insulate the soil from heat and cold, retain water, keep weeds and pests out, and prevents soil compaction and erosion. Mulching is a great way to keep your garden healthy and beautiful.

What is Mulch?

Mulch is a layer of material placed over the soil and is often made up of leaves, hay, grass clippings, shredded bark, whole bark nuggets, sawdust, shells, plastic or wood chips. Stone mulch is also common for its visual appeal and useful for stabilizing gardens that are vulnerable to washout.

Organic mulch is great option for improving soil quality and stability. Aged organic mulch is partially decomposed wood products and is used to improve soil quality and encourage plant growth by adding nutrients to the soil. Fresh organic mulch is wood chips or bark which is best for controlling weeds and creating a attractive garden, not for improving soil. The larger the bark pieces, the longer it will take to decompose.

There are also different colours of mulch which add more visual appeal to your landscaped area. The natural dyes will only last about 1 to 2 years before they fade to grey, so it is suggested that you replace mulch every year or two. Red mulch is very popular for both residential and commercial landscapes since it highlights the plants natural colours and makes your garden stand out.

What Kind of Mulch is Best?

The type of mulch you choose for your garden depends on many factors including what you are growing, the level of maintenance required, rain levels, the area you are located in and what you are looking for visually. Whatever you choose, you should keep it consistent for a polished look. A professional landscaper can help you to choose the right mulch for your garden, properly apply and maintain it.

Pine Straw

One great organic mulch option is pine needles or pine ‘straw’ which is lightweight and allows water penetration without washing away. For this reason, they are great for Northern cottage gardens on slopes of rocky Canadian shield. The natural acidity in the needles as they break down makes them perfect for plants like rhododendrons, hydrangeas and daffodils which prefer acidic soil. Pine needles are harvested from pine trees that have naturally shed their needles making them renewable. They are slow to break down in comparison to other organic mulches, but can lose their colour and look messy if not properly laid down.

Pine Bark Nuggets

This organic mulch lasts a long time and releases nutrients into the soil as it breaks down. Size grades range from ‘mini’ to ‘jumbo’ and even smaller sized nuggets are used as soil conditioner to improve soil quality with nutrients. Pine bark is easy to apply and spread, but does not do well in areas where there are heavy rains. Pine nuggets are best for covering ground, weed control and moisture retention.

Shredded Hardwood 

Similar to pine bark, shredded hardwood is easy to spread and lasts long, but is less likely to wash away. This is another good mulch to use on sloped areas where erosion may occur. Some things you should consider when choosing shredded hardwood mulch is that it can make the soil more alkaline and an acid fertilizer or sulfur may be needed. Hardwood mulch can attract termites and insects so be sure to avoid using it close to your home.  If you are looking to add mulch to a log home garden, you should avoid pine, straw and wood mulch as they can attract termites. Hardwood mulch is also known to compact over time and can block out rain and nutrients from the soil.

Pea Straw

Pea straw is a great organic mulch that can also be used as a soil conditioner since it breaks down quickly to release nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil. This natural mulch improves soil structure and water drainage making it ideal for roses, flowers, vegetable gardens, trees, shrubs and fruit trees.

How does Mulching Benefit your Garden?

Mulching benefits include improving soil fertility and structure since mulch materials contain minerals and nutrients that get washed into the soil with rain and rot. A mulched garden means less weeding, and looser soil for less cultivation. Mulch is especially useful for keeping soil, fungus and rot away from fruit crops. Avoid mulching low lying soil that is often wet to avoid fungus diseases that grow well in humid conditions. It is also important to leave space around shrubs and trees when mulching to avoid rot and pest attraction.

Mulching makes for a garden that is both nice to look at and easy to grow and maintain. Hiring a landscaper to help mulch your garden will ensure you are using the best mulch for your garden, it is applied properly and looks polished and professional. Whether you’re looking to improve the look of your commercial space or improve your gardens soil quality and yield, mulching is a great, easy and cost effective way to get your garden growing and looking great! Contact Hybrid Landscape Management for all your mulching needs.

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