Why Should You Mulch Your Landscape Beds

Shredded hardwood mulch is a great organic mulch solution for most landscape beds

Why Mulch?

Mulching helps stimulate plant health and growth.  Most mulch will suppress weeds and other undesirable plants in your garden.  Weeds compete with our trees and shrubs for vital nutrients and water.  If we eliminate the weeds, the plant materials stand a far greater chance of survival.   Weeds also make the garden look unsightly and messy.

Applying mulch can definitely make an immediate aesthetic impact on your home.  It’s an easy and relatively inexpensive way to dress up your home whether it's for a holiday party or to add curb appeal to your home. 

We recommend mulching all newly installed plant material.  Mulch will help regulate soil temperatures in extreme heat and cold.  It can slightly change the pH in your soil and provide more nutrients for your new plants and perennials.  Mulch will help retain water in your soil during the hot and dry seasons.

What is Mulch?

Mulch is any product used to cover up the surface of a planting bed. Mulch is used for aesthetics as well as plant health.  The materials may be organic or inorganic.  There are advantages and disadvantages to using either types of mulch.

Examples of Organic Mulches Include:

  • Shredded Bark
  • Pine Straw
  • Wood Chips (often dyed different colors)
  • Peat Moss

Examples of Inorganic Mulches Include:

  • Cobble Rock 
  • Decorative Gravel
  • Pea Gravel
  • Recycled Rubber
Pine straw mulch is more common in the south

Pine straw mulch is more common in the south

River rock mulch provides a much different look

River rock mulch provides a much different look

Advantages of Organic Mulches:

  • Reduce soil moisture loss
  • Decomposition can add nutrients to soil 
  • Decomposition can alter soil pH
  • Benefits overall plant health
  • Moderates soil temperatures (hot or cold)
  • No mowing hazards
  • Discourage weed growth

Advantages of Inorganic Mulches:

  • Reduce soil moisture loss
  • No decomposition
  • Non-flammable except recycled rubber
  • Rarely need replacement
  • Discourage weed growth

Disadvantages of Organic Mulches:

  • Potentially flammable in high heat conditions
  • Require replacement due to decomposition
  • Dyed mulches can get on clothing, animals, and paved areas

Disadvantages of Inorganic Mulches:

  • Do not necessarily effect soil pH, nutrients, or soil nutrition
  • Potential mowing hazard (can be thrown at people, windows, and cars)
  • May retain heat and harm plants in warmer areas
  • Can be thrown by children playing in the yard

When to Mulch and Proper installation techniques:

Example of improper mulching technique, which can lead to poor plant health or death

Ideally we want to mulch in late Winter/Early Spring before the perennials are coming back.  Mulching at this time allows us cover all areas without disturbing delicate sprouts of perennials popping up.  Many weeds are considered perennials as well.  Early installation will keep these at bay.

Mulch should be installed using a wheelbarrow and pitchfork.  It should be spread with a hard rake or using hands underneath plant material.  Make sure to clean mulch off of plant leaves and window sills.

When applying mulch it should installed at a depth of 3”.  Keep mulch at least 3” away from the trunks of all plant materials.  Mulch will suffocate plants if installed too high on the trunk. One of the most common ways that plants and trees die is to be buried too deep in soil or mulch. 

In conclusion, mulch can be a quick and inexpensive way to add value to your home.  It is very beneficial to the plants and trees and can save water which will save you money in the long run.  Whether you are installing a new landscape or just looking to freshen up an established one, I would always recommend applying mulch in your garden.

Written by Jim Cook, Customer Relationship Manager-BB Barns Landscape.

BB Barns Landscape provides full-service landscape design, installation, and maintenance in Asheville, NC and the surrounding areas in Western NC.