Mulching the Landscape Can Benefit Plants

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

mulched plantsIt will not be long before spring arrives and gardening chores begin. One of the tasks that not only beautifies the yard, but also helps plants, is applying mulch. Homeowners need to keep a few points in mind when selecting and applying different types of mulch.

Mulch should be applied in the spring after the soil thaws and dries a little. Applying mulch to soils that are saturated may keep too much water around the plant and cause root damage to certain plants. A second application in the fall of the year will help prevent soil heaving which breaks plant roots.

Do not apply too much mulch. Generally, a 2 to 3 inch layer for most mulches is adequate for weed suppression and water management. Mulch layers of greater than 3 inches may lead to water logging the plants, particularly on heavy clay soils.

Mulch generally does not add much to the plant in terms of fertilizer. However, some organic mulches will tie up nitrogen that the plant needs. Homeowners should add extra nitrogen fertilizers when using straw, sawdust, bark and wood mulches to prevent plant nitrogen deficiencies.

Some wood mulches may attract insect pests like termites. Homeowners can help prevent termite infestations by not putting wood mulch next to wooden structures. Inspecting the mulch for termites and treating infestations will also reduce the potential for termite damage.

Sour mulch is another problem that can happen to hardwood mulches that are not stored properly. These mulches will often have a bad odor and can damage plants from chemicals produced during anaerobic composting. Sour mulch can still be used if it is spread out in a thin layer and allowed to dry out for about a week.

For more information regarding mulches, you may want to check out the following website:

https://guilford.ces.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Mulches-Brochure.pdf?fwd=no