Time for my annual diatribe against bad quality mulch and poor (read ignorant) mulching practices. When I say ignorant, I am referring to ‘professionals’ who are paid and should know better. I know my last post was negative too, but that’s what happens when it is April and you haven’t had any warm spring days and you still have several feet of snow on the back deck.
Let’s start with a positive… properly applying good mulch to your gardens each spring is one of the best practices to keep your gardens healthy, happy and beautiful. A good quality, natural mulch without dyes, that has been aged for a season or two, will quickly add organic material to your soil without robbing it of nutrients or moisture. For a more detailed summary of mulches and proper mulching practice, read my post from last spring called, Reed Versus The Volcano (Tree Volcano That Is).
Basically, use good mulch and apply a thin layer each spring. Two-three inches is more than enough in shrub borders and around trees, while half that is needed in perennial beds (compost is preferable to bark mulch here.) By the end of the season, the mulch should be mostly broken down. If you have left over mulch in your beds in the spring, rake it over to loosen it up and add a very thin layer of new mulch on top.
The key factor is that the mulch application does not raise the level of the bed year over year. This ‘volcanization’ is what kills plants and trees over time.
Through this post are some images over recent years that track the demise of plants as a result of improper mulching and bad mulch. The time differential is one year, that is how quickly mulch can suffocate and kill.
I promise an upbeat and positive post next time. It can’t still be cold……..