The Purposes for Mulch in the Landscape

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This article will explain the purposes for mulch in the landscape
by Russell Camp · All Zones · Landscaping · 0 Comments · August 17, 2010 · 2,828 views

Often we hear or read garden experts refer to mulch or mulching around plants or newly seeded lawn areas.

What is mulch and why do we want it?

Mulch is usually an organic material that is placed around ornamental plants to accomplish five purposes.

  • First, it's decorative. Let's face it, without mulch we would be looking at bare dirt around our trees, shrubs, and perennials. It creates a unifying effect for the landscape plants we have around our homes...tying everything together. Certain colors of mulch contrast nicely with plants and help foliage or flowers stand out.
  • Second, it reduces weeds. (Please see the reference to bare dirt, above.) A reasonably thick layer of mulch minimizes the weeds that want to invade our landscapes. Needless to say, reducing the amount of weeds reduces the cost, time and effort to pull and/or spray them
  • Third, it minimizes moisture loss. You can imagine how quickly bare soil will dry out on a hot summer day. With a layer of mulch present, evaporation of water from the soil happens much more slowly, giving the plants time to absorb the water first.
  • Fourth, mulch mitigates soil temperatures. Mulch acts like a blanket, insulating the soil from extreme heat or cold. To successfully grow some types of "tender" plants in a region, it may be necessary to apply a thick layer of mulch around the root system for protection from freezing or below freezing cold weather during winter. In Georgia, this may be necessary when attemtping to grow tender plants in the landscape, such as certain types of palms, elephant ears, banana, and others.
  • And finally, some types of mulches, such as shredded wood or pine straw, naturally break down into organic matter that is a beneficial food source for your plants, and conditions your soil.

Mulching material ranges from pine straw, shredded or chipped wood material, pine bark, and other wood sources - to pea gravel, marble chips, and other types of stone material - to polypropylene (plastic) pine straw, rubber mulches and other synthetic materials. No mulch is perfect or ideal, and they all have their pros and cons.

Besides aesthetics, price and availability come into the equation, so choose what you like best, but I recommend you stick with one type of mulch for your entire landscape. Personally, I prefer pine straw because it is always available, it's available in large or small quantities (some bark products are only available by the truck load), and I can make it look great.

Russell Camp

Meet The Author

Russell Camp - Russell Camp has a degree in Ornamental Horticulture from Abraham Baldwin in Tifton, Georgia.

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