How to mulch your yard like a pro, according to a landscaping expert
April 30, 2021
Some people are lawn and garden experts. The rest of us have to learn mulch.
With spring in full swing and mulching on the minds of many homeowners, we turned to David Fisher for an education on the subject. As a landscape architect at Pinnacle Design Company, a La Quinta, California-based international landscape architecture firm specializing in golf courses, resorts and shared apartments, Fisher works with Mulch for both aesthetic and pragmatic reasons.
For starters, mulch makes nice embellishments. But it also suppresses weeds and reduces soil compaction and erosion, while protecting moisture and isolating plant roots from the cold. Provided you use it correctly. To that end, we asked Fisher for a list of mulch cans and cans. Here is his easy-to-understand 6-point guide.
1. Find the right kind
Mulch comes in a variety of sizes, colors, shapes, and costs. Most nurseries stock varieties that are good for the area. But do your own research and ask questions to make sure you’re getting a mulch that suits both your budget and the colors and textures of your garden.
2. Don’t mulch too much
Spring is the best time to replenish or add a first layer of mulch, especially after a cold or snowy winter. Mulch isolates plant and tree roots and helps warm soils to temperatures that are conducive to growth. It also blocks sunlight so weeds cannot thrive.
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But be careful not to overdo it. Too thick a layer of mulch can choke and prevent air from reaching the surface of the soil. A deep mulch cover is also prone to excessive moisture, which can lead to fungus and other unwanted growth. In addition, it is difficult to walk on a towering pile of mulch.
So what’s the right amount? This depends on a number of factors, including climate and soil conditions. But usually about a 3-inch layer of mulch should do it. More than that is probably too much of a good thing.
3. Take care of the grinding
In the golf industry, mulch is a popular material for lawn reduction projects, an aesthetically pleasing, water-saving substitute for grass. But the mulch used on courses isn’t necessarily the type you want to use in your garden. For playability reasons, mulch on courts is usually ground and finely textured, a composition that can suppress airflow. Around plants and trees in your garden, it is better to use larger, bark-like mulch with nice open passages through which air can flow in and out.
4th Don’t bark at the tree
Mulching around a tree is great. But mulch too close to a tree can cause root rot. One way to be on the safe side is to identify the root flare – at which point the trunk transitions into the roots – and make sure the area is mulch-free.
5. Do not take a blanket approach
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In addition to mulching, many homeowners lay down landscaping fabrics for weed control. If that’s what you really want, Fisher isn’t going to fight you with it. But he doesn’t recommend it. For starters, properly filing the fabric is a labor-intensive task that involves cutting out holes for your plants and trees. The fabric is also prone to tear and – even more often – to the surface as the soil contracts and expands over time.
An exposed tarpaulin doesn’t look good. It would help if homeowners buried them deeper. But too often, says Fisher, people only dig a few inches down when they really should be at least four inches deep. Of course, that creates more work. Fisher prefers to forego the fabric, and if weeds come up every now and then, weed them out.
6. Don’t water your mulch
You, right? Still, it’s easy if you’re not careful. First of all, it’s a waste of water. Additionally, if your water is high in calcium it can cause your bark to turn white.
Josh Sens, a golf, food and travel writer, has been contributing to GOLF Magazine since 2004 and now contributes to all GOLF platforms. His work has been summarized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also co-author with Sammy Hagar of Are We Have Any Fun Yet: The Guide to Cooking and Partying.