The Mulch Factor

When it comes to mulch, there are plenty of options to choose from. Many home owners and businesses use more than one type to create the designs they want or to help plants out with some much-needed augmentation of soil. Here are some mulches and things to consider when planning out landscaping.

Type Of Plants

Pine needles can help add acidity or reduce the pH of your soil. Acid loving plants such as blueberries may appreciate this change. On the other hand, plants that like a more basic pH might be stunted or look unhealthy if you use pine needles regularly.

Quality Of Mulch

There are mulches that don’t have the same levels of nutrients or wood density as others. Pine mulch, for example, is going to break down into the soil much faster than hardwood mulches. You may have had free mulch delivered from a tree company in the past. While this mulch can be used, it usually needs to be composted for 6 months to a year at least. This means you have a big pile of decaying wood tying up your space for a long time.

While free mulch can be useful, you also might notice that it can have debris in it that you might not want around your landscape. By purchasing quality mulch from a landscaper or mulch yard, you will get the best quality for your dollar.

Overall Attractiveness

You can use newspaper or lawn clippings for mulching, but that doesn’t mean that it is going to look very good. Often homeowners use these types of mulches under other mulch that has a more attractive appearance. Since mulch is a natural product, the color may vary a bit from what you see online. If you get mulch that has a lot of unbroken down lighter colored chips in it, then don’t be surprised when it turns a rich brown or black color as it breaks down into the dirt.

Stone Mulches

Rocks make it harder for weeds and undesirable plants to become established. Stone mulches work well for some shrubs and don’t break down so although you have to pay for the cost of stone, you don’t have to reapply often like wood based mulches. Rocks can be very attractive and help a lot with drainage. River rock mulches and pebbles can be very pretty.

Rock mulches usually only have to be refreshed if the stones are small, and the area is walked on often. In this case, smaller stones can get kicked or caught in shoes or tires so over the years, these losses may require some more mulch. If the area is just landscaping, you might never have to get more mulch. Just be sure that you get the size stones you want. ALD can help explain what is available and the advantages of each size for your landscape design.

Wood Mulch

Wood mulch offers the advantage of suppressing weeds and undesirable plants while nourishing those that you want to thrive. Not only does the rate of decomposition vary based on the type of wood it is made of, but how wet space is where it is applied.

Mulches that are wood-based can be light enough that some can be blown away under windy conditions, especially if it is in a more exposed area.

Chips Vs. Bark

Some mulches are made from the bark of trees while others are made from mostly chips. Bark mulch weighs a lot less per cubic yard than chip mulch. The lighter weight characteristics of it mean that water and the wind can move it around more than chip mulch.

Bark mulches are used a lot on slopes. If you like to rake your mulch around a bit to get the look you want then be warned that bark mulch is far less easy to rake and spread then wood chip mulch. The bark is more resistant to decay so it can least several years longer than wood chip mulches.

Synthetic Mulches

Recycled rubber tires are often shredded and used to make mulch. The advantages of rubber mulch are that it has a lot of staying power, and if you fall onto rubber mulch, the impact is less than other mulches. The areas where rubber mulch is most often seen are schools and playgrounds that want a long lasting solution that is easy on kids playing.

Hay Mulch

You have probably seen someone put down straw or hay after spreading grass seed. This is helpful in keeping seed protected and moist while it becomes established. Good grass seed is not cheap. One issue with hay or straw is if it contains viable seeds from other grass or plants you may find something coming up that you don’t want. Overall hay or straw is a very temporary solution that doesn’t add a lot to your soil.

Budget Concerns

Stone mulches such as rock or marble chips are attractive but have a much larger upfront cost. The fact that they last indefinitely means they will have a lower cost over time though so if you like mineral based mulches and don’t want to invest as much time and money over the years then they are something you should consider for your landscaping now.

Wood mulches are going to be better for those that want edible landscaping or a more subtle look. The labor required to spread wood mulch is going to be greater over time then mineral based mulches so if you plan on getting some landscaping done and then trying to take care of some of your needs yourself then consider how much work is going to be involved in the upkeep of your landscaping.

A Mosaic Of Mulch

If you have a wide variety of plants, then you may want to consider using 2,3, or even four different types of mulch. This is usually just going to be a consideration for those with large properties or that love to garden both ornamental plants and vegetables or have trees that require special care.