Debating use of mulch in landscaping

shebz(5)April 30, 2012

I need to settle a 'dispute' with my husband. We recently pulled out all of the old shrubbery (several ugly old overgrown yews and a dead redbud) and planted all new lovely shrubs, a crabapple, ground covers, etc. There are areas that are empty as we await the 'spread' the next few years, and my husband heard somewhere that it's a bad idea to mulch for ecological reasons. I always thought mulching, especially for newly planted perennials, was a good thing to do to keep weeds down and soil moist and overall general health of the plants. Can anyone weigh in? We live in Evanston just north of Chicago and our soil is mostly clay, but we've worked in topsoil and compost so it's pretty rich.

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Mulching generally is good. It moderates soil temperature, helps retain moisture, keeps down weeds and, assuming you are using an organic mulch of some kind (ie not rubber or rocks), it breaks down and improves soil tilth over time.

Possible objections to it?

There are some objections to the substances used to mulch -- most often on sustainability (with substances like cypress etc) grounds but also sometimes for reasons like the introduction of unknown chemicals or exotic pests with mulches that basically consist of shredded imported shipping pallets. Mind you, I wouldn't say, for the most part, that either category consitutes a particularly pressing and widespread set of objections to mulching. If you have questions or concerns about bagged mulch, then don't use it. Use chopped up leaves etc. instead.

Another line of objection to bagged wood mulches concerns whether their use robs the soil of nitrogen. As I understand it, wood mulches used on top of the soil have a negligible effect on N, but do take up enough N to be of some concern if actually mixed into the soil.

The most pressing objection is not so much as to mulch itself, but to how some people apply it. The popular "mulch volcano" perpetuated by legions of mow-and-blow landscapers is demonstrably bad for trees.

So, mulch away with whatever substance you are most comfortable with, but, whatever you use, be sure to apply it correctly.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 2:53PM
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There are over 500 references/discussions here on mulch. The one linked below is one of my favorites.

I don't know how or why I've resisted mulch all these years, but I'm retooling some of my gardens this year and will be going with mulch... and in a color nature intended.

Here is a link that might be useful: Orange Brown kinda like Burger King

    Bookmark   April 30, 2012 at 3:22PM
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