Easy on the Mulching

Remember when you mulch that there is such a thing as too much. The mulch should be under four inches over the soil. Too much mulch can block air from moving into the root zone, as well as absorb too much rain water. The latter activity is not good for our dry summers. Save money - use less mulch. I use around one to two inches - just enough to cover the ground.

Keep in mind also that the type of mulch you use affects the amount of water it will absorb. Larger particles, such as pine bark mini-nuggets or nuggets, have less surface area for the volume you put down. Shredded mulch, like the most common shredded hardwood mulches, have more surface area per volume. This means that the latter will absorb more water, and with a sparse rainfall, capture the water rather than letting it get to the soil below.

This year I'm going to use fallen pine needles raked from elsewhere to mix in with my nugget mulch for the foot paths. The needles are a great mulch, and break down to make this really fine material. The nuggets are really just for looks. The whole thing makes a soft path for people to walk on, absorbing shock from their weight, which helps to protect the tree roots underneath.

One final word about mulching: if you have a group of trees, instead of making little circles of mulch around the tree trunks, make one bigger mulched area by edging and mulching out to the drip line of all of the trees. Tree roots can go out beyond the trunk to about three times the drip line radius! If you are mulching to add nutrients and protect the root zone, including the space between trees will help. And, it looks fabulous - much better than the individual small circles.

© Iris H. Mars, 2004.