Mulch is any material that is spread over the soil as a covering. Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility and health of the soil, reducing weed growth. In a natural habitat, there will be as much of as little mulch as needed for the vegetation to thrive. Simply because plants that require mulch will grow where leaf litter is available, and plants that don’t need mulch will grow where mulch is absent. Healthy yards don’t need mulch. But as a landscaper you often have to work with an unnatural situation: grass was planted under trees where it is smothered by leaf mulch. And woodland plants that need humus and leaf litter are placed in dry and compacted soil. Some issues can be solved with the use of mulch. First we need to understand what mulches are available.
These mulches are made of shredded tires and contain toxins that evaporate, and leak into the soil.
Stones, gravel, bricks etc. can be used for weed suppression and can be used to create paths and terrasses.
Made from chopped up trees and branches. Natural color. Chunkier than shredded wood. Decomposes slowly.
Shredded lumber wood. Can have different colors. Decomposes quicker than chips. Can contain toxins.
Decomposes slowly, which makes it a good choice for pathways, but it can be washed away by rain.
Pine needles are light, cheap and good for weed suppression. Only use for acid loving vegetation.
Leaf litter comes for free. It is terrific natural mulch, decomposes quickly and is beneficial for wildlife.
Different types of hulls are available on the market as mulches. They can be good weed suppressors.
Living mulch can be plants or cover crops that grow, cover the soil, and protect against weeds.
Straw and Hay
Make sure there are no seeds. Straw and hay are easy and terrific fast decomposing mulches.
The first choice for a planting bed are good plants and humus. Mulches are good solutions for pathways, playgrounds, and to get rid of used hay or wood chips from a cut tree. If you have dry, poor or compacted soil, but you have no humus available to amend the soil, then mulches can be a good temporary solution to create protection and to restore the soil. Mulches can be placed over dripping systems in arid landscapes, especially where specimen tree and shrubs need extra protection from the drought.
Create pathways and terrasses
To restore woodland plantings
To decompose and create humus
To help decomposition of tree stumps
To remove turf and create planting beds
For weed suppression in vegetable gardens
The Problem With Too Much Mulch
Some industries produce wood chips as a by-product, so wood chips are easy available. The biggest problem with wood chips, and other heavily applied mulches is, that not only do they prevent weeds to develop, but they also smother plants with soft stems, and prevent plantings from spreading.
The abundance of the use of wood chips has resulted in an omnipresent landscaping feature: trees and shrubs surrounded by wood mulch but absence of plants and flowers. This type of landscaping isn’t very appealing, but more important, it offers very little opportunity for pollinators or insect-eating birds.
Never pile soil or mulch up the trunk of a tree. It will kill the tree.