By Carolyn Johnson
Mulching Provides a Clean, Finished Look to the Garden
Spring clean ups are wrapping up and our next focus at Field will be composting and mulching. This is the perfect time of year to apply compost and mulch because the plants are just now starting to poke their little heads up. It’s easier to work around the plants in the garden now rather than when they are fully-leafed out.
The benefits from compost and mulch are immense. Compost and mulch can do the following:
- Conserve moisture, reducing watering needs
- Prevent weed germination
- Regulate soil temperatures
- Improve the condition of the soil by adding nutrients
- Reduce compaction
- Provide a ‘finished’ look in your landscape. Should I keep going?
We recommend applying new mulch and compost every two to three years to help your garden stay healthy and look its best. Please call me, Carolyn, at 612-554-8179, if you would like to schedule our services. You can reach me at email@example.com as well. We would be happy to help you strive to have the best looking garden on your block!
Share on Facebook
We are often asked by clients and sometimes by neighbors who are watching us do an installation, “Don’t you use fabric or plastic under the mulch?” The answer is that generally we don’t use fabric when we are installing wood mulches. There is a feeling that covering the soil with fabric will help to stop weeds. But almost all weeds originate from seeds that float down from the air and start from the top of the mulch surface not from the existing soil. The goal is to make sure the few weeds that can start from the soil – like thistles, vetch, merrybells – are sufficiently eradicated prior to installing the new bed. The other reasons we don’t use fabric under hardwood mulch is that (1) it tends to make the mulch slide off the surface (2) there is nothing worse than having a nice garden bed with an edge of fabric sticking up and (3) it makes weeding and plant transplanting extremely annoying once the roots grow into the fabric.Now, we do use fabric under rock mulch, but for a different reason. Although rock mulch has fallen out of favor, it can be an effective mulch for a shrub bed or other bed that you don’t plan on ever digging in. Fabric is used in a rock mulch bed because you want to make sure that no soil gets into the rock mulch, so you are separating the rock mulch from the soil below. Rock mulch, like all garden applications, is not a NO-MAINTENANCE solution. In order to be effective the home owner should regular blow out leaf, tree seed and other organic debris out of the bed. Overtime this debris will break down creating little soil deposits – the perfect medium for weed germination. This is a regular occurence at the edge of rock mulch beds next to sidewalks.SUBQUESTIONS:”What if my beds have been completely taken over by pernicious perennial weeds?” We occassionally talk to home owners who want to do a garden makeover and have beds that have been completely invaded by merrybells, thistles, lily-of-the-valley, weed trees, snow-on-the-mountain, creeping charlie, and other weeds that are perennial. As opposed to the discussion above these weeds often colonize by spreading through the soil rather than growing from seeds on top of the soil. They survive the winter and start up again in the spring. Eradicating these weeds can be challenging and should be taken very seriously – we’ve learned this the hard way. A one time hand weeding will not get rid of these invaders.Repeated applications of Round-up will often knock these weeds back to a point that the remaining survivors are easier to contend with. But a technique we favor is called “sheet mulching.” This technique includes covering the bed with corrugated cardboard or thick layers of newspaper and topping this with 6-8″ of mulch. This should stay in place for at least a year. The following year you can remove some of the excess mulch and plant.
Share on Facebook
Field is entering mulching season. If you’ve gone more than a couple years without supplementing your mulch/compost and need some help, please give us a call (612) 789-9381. Here are a couple notes from our lead gardener, Carolyn, about mulches.
*******Studies have confirmed that mulch helps with water retention around your plantings. Soil temperatures are buffered with the application of mulch resulting in less ‘heaving’ in our freeze and thaw cycles here in Minnesota. Mulching the garden can inhibit weed germination or suppress weed growth. Mulch beds to stop overwintered fungus from spreading and to freshen the appearance of the garden Hardwood mulch: Generally speaking, these mulches enhance the appearance of your garden. They are usually easy to apply and are good insulators against hot and cold temperatures. Cedar, cypress, and pine bark mulches are the most popularo Cedar§ Pro – Doesn’t break down as easily§ Pro – Doesn’t wash away in heavy rains§ Pro – Looks nice§ Con – Doesn’t return nutrients to the soilo Cypress§ Most popular§ Pro – Good color retention§ Con – Wiping out natural wetlands in Florida where it is foundo Pine Bark§ Pro – A by-product of the forest industry§ Pro – Good color retention§ Pro – Doesn’t settle quickly§ Con – Can wash away in heavy rains Pine Straw Mulch· Pro – Good color retention· Pro – Lets water and oxygen move easily· Con – Possible loss of nutrients· Con – Settles quickly Partially Composted Leaves· Pro – Excellent insulator· Pro – Adds nutrients to soil when breaks down· Con – Leaves must be finely shredded to allow oxygen and water to move easily Straw and Hay· Pro – Excellent insulator· Pro – Lets water and oxygen move easily· Con – Hay has lots of weed seeds, straw does not Cocoa bean mulch· Pro – Nice brown color· Pro – Great frangrance· Con – Toxic to pets· Con – Expensive· Con – Can get moldy Sources: About.com and my [Carolyn's] brain
Share on Facebook