Mulch is one of the most useful landscaping materials available for your garden. It provides nourishment, retains moisture, and reduces weeds, all of which are especially important for weak or unhealthy soil. To get the best results from its application, all you need to know are the basics. With that in mind, here’s what you should do—and what you should avoid.
Choose organic mulch.
Gravel, rocks, rubber tire pieces, and other inorganic items might look nice, but they don’t break down and may do more harm than good for your soil. Use mulch with wood chips, grass, leaves, straw, newspaper, manure, and compost instead. When cleaning out your fridge and kitchen cabinets, keep in mind that some of the food you find would make good landscaping materials, too, especially vegetables.
Use the right amount of mulch.
Too much mulch will attract pests, such as termites. On the other hand, too little of it won’t keep the moisture and temperature regulated or stop weeds from growing. Aim for 3–4 inches of mulch in your garden.
Clean between applications.
When you’re adding more mulch to your garden, remove any pieces left over from the last application that haven’t decomposed yet. Otherwise, it may simply rot beneath the new layer, and the pile might get too big to be useful.
Make a volcano shape.
It’s good to place mulch around any trees that you might have in your garden, but don’t shape it like a volcano—high, thick, and tightly packed. Doing so could raise the soil temperature too high for the tree while blocking water and oxygen from reaching it.
Apply the mulch anytime.
To encourage warmth and moisture when it’s needed most, lay out mulch whenever the soil is heated and dry, such as in early summer. You can also apply it in late fall or early winter to keep the soil warm in the freezing temperatures.
Mix your mulch with anything toxic.
If you have a cat or dog that might be interested in eating some of the mulch, avoid including anything that could poison them. Most of these risks are found within the average household, such as cocoa hulls, onions, garlic, apples, mushrooms, and even raw meat.
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