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The Importance of Mulch
March 19th by Anthony D'Atri

What Is Mulch? 

Mulch is the material that gets spread out over and around the roots of what you have planted to add a touch to your garden beds. There are two types of mulch, organic mulch and inorganic mulch. Organic mulch includes grass clippings, leaves, bark mulch, newspaper and straw like pine straw. Inorganic mulch would include various types of rocks, stones and gravel. The advantage to using organic mulch is that it retains moisture and overtime it breaks down adding nutrients to the soil, thus making the soil richer. However, because it eventually decomposes and loses it's colour, organic mulch needs to be replaced every few years.  

Why Use Mulch?

Mulching is one of the most efficient ways of protecting and maintaining healthy landscaped plants, shrubs and flowers. Some of the uses for mulch are:

  1. Preventing weed growth in gardens
  2. Adds to the aesthetic appeal of your landscape, looks cleaner and more finished
  3. Over time adds nutrients to soil (Organic Mulch)
  4. Water retention (less watering, more convenient, healthier plants)
  5. Keeps roots cooler on hot days and shielded in the winter
  6. Protects your beds from soil erosion

Applying Mulch

When applying mulch you would like to put a layer of it 2-4 inches as close to the roots as possible.  All too many times I've seen a bad situation come about when mulch was not replenished for a few years leading to a rock solid garden bed full of weeds, if choosing to go with organic mulch, make sure to top it up. When you apply the mulch be sure not to use too much or else you may end up suffocating the delicate root system underneath the plantings. You also want to make sure you keep any mulch away from tree trunks. I've seen people spread out a layer of plastic as a base before they applying the mulch. This isn’t a good idea because it dries out the soil underneath defeating the purpose of maintaining proper moisture for the root system. In this case you would be best off going to canadian tire or your local nursery for some landscaping fabric, which will also add to the water retention properties of your beds. The best time to apply mulch is in late Spring before the ground starts to warm up.  

Organic mulches are largely beneficial to your beds, they can also wind up being a habitat for insects. Most of these insects will not harm your plants but they may become a nuisance for you.  Keep this in mind before using an organic type mulch too close to your house.  Pavement ants and earwigs are known to love bark mulch so If you end up putting the mulch too close to your house you may have unwanted guests.

As a footnote to the article I'd like to emphasize, personally, the beneficial effects of mulch and how it can really work for you to improve the aesthetics of your landscape.  Whether you choose to use a black, brown, pine, red bark mulch, coconut husk mulch or some beautiful colored rocks, it will really make your yard stand out (in a good way).  It's no secret that beautifully landscaped yards add to the value of your home, so what are you waiting for?