How to Lay Mulch Down around Plants

Mulching Your Lawn

The plant life in your yard thrives best when it has easy access to moisture and nutrients. Although many would assume that the natural combination of soil and grass provides the best covering for root systems, mulch has been proven more effective in retaining water for longer periods of time. Applying mulch around your plants also helps to space them out and discourage weed growth, which means your plants will experience less competition for important nutrients.

Steps to Installing Mulch:

  1. Decide on a Type of Mulch
    Mulch simply refers to a layer of material that covers your soil. There are actually many types of mulch available, and choosing the best material for your yard means taking budget limitations, purpose, aesthetics, and the effect the mulch has on your soil into consideration.
    For example, organic mulches that break down naturally into your soil include wood chips, peat moss, pine straw, hay and cardboard or newspaper pieces. These organic mulches tend to benefit any kind of soil by increasing fertility and providing micro-nutrients that the plants could otherwise miss out on.
    Lava rocks, gravel and rubber nuggets made from recycled tires are types of inorganic mulch. Although these don’t enrich the soil they cover, inorganic mulch can come in a larger variety of visually appealing forms. They can also reduce fungal growth and insulate the soil and root systems from heat.
  2. Purchase Your Mulch
    Where you purchase your mulch, and how much it will cost, depends on the type you have selected and its availability in your area. Home improvement stores and plant nurseries generally sell basic varieties of organic mulch, but more uncommon or expensive materials might be harder to find. Consider checking online and with local landscaping companies for more options.
  3. Prepare the Designated Space
    Whether you’re applying mulch around a sitting area, over a garden, or in patches throughout your yard, make sure that you have provided basic lawn maintenance to the entire area you will be mulching. Mow your lawn, pull or cut weeds, and pick up any debris in the area. If you are applying organic mulch to a garden bed, loosen the soil by hand first to ensure that it will mix in and break down easily.
    At this time, you can choose to cover the area with landscaping plastic or fabric. These are products that further discourage the emergence of weeds, but their presence is not absolutely necessary.
  4. Apply the Mulch
    Once you have the mulch at your home, apply two to four inches of the material evenly over your designated area. You can use a shovel to scatter the mulch for larger expanses, or simply lay the mulch by hand if covering a small garden. The depth of the mulch is important because applying only a thin layer won’t help retain moisture very well, but creating “mulch volcanoes” around your plants and trees could mean excess moisture and root rot.
    Do not apply the mulch directly against trunks and stems so as to give your plant life some space and avoid water logging. Spread the materials with a rake to ensure that your newly mulched area looks neat and even.

Be aware that mulch made from wood can become sour when waterlogged for long periods of time. When this happens, a process called anaerobic fermentation makes the mulch acidic and can cause damage to your plant life. This is why it’s important to routinely inspect your mulched areas and replace soggy patches with new, dry mulch if the water doesn’t seem to be evaporating.

Applying mulch is a fairly simple process for many homeowners, but when it comes to covering large areas or wanting a more sophisticated design, contacting a professional landscaping company might be your best option. Likewise, lawn care and landscaping companies offer routine maintenance to keep your mulched areas neat and replenished, and can help with fungus issues if they were to arise.