Q:: What is the proper way to mulch?

A: Mulching your landscape beds can achieve a wide variety of garden goals.  All bare soil should be covered, in order to prevent compaction and erosion from rain and wind.  Make sure to keep all mulch a few inches away from the trunks and stems of your woody plants to discourage plant disease. Using organic materials such as wood chips, compost, leaves, or straw is best, since they help build healthy soil as well as conserve water, prevent weed germination and decrease soil temperature fluctuations. 

Q:: What is the proper way to mulch?

A: Mulching your landscape beds can achieve a wide variety of garden goals.  All bare soil should be covered, in order to prevent compaction and erosion from rain and wind.  Make sure to keep all mulch a few inches away from the trunks and stems of your woody plants to discourage plant disease. Using organic materials such as wood chips, compost, leaves, or straw is best, since they help build healthy soil as well as conserve water, prevent weed germination and decrease soil temperature fluctuations. 

Wood chips are a great choice for mulching tree and shrub beds, and can also be used for informal pathways.  A 2-4” layer of wood chips nourishes the beneficial fungi and bacteria in the soil, having a beneficial relationship with the roots of woody plants much like a natural forest floor ecosystem.  Because of this, they also are a natural deterrent to many common weeds, which prefer a more meadow-like soil ecosystem. Wood chips also prevent soil compaction, and retain air pockets that allow water to infiltrate the soil. This does not include bark mulch products which can repel water and do little to nourish the soil. You can get free wood chips from local arborists or purchase play chips from landscape suppliers.

Compost is the best choice for mulching vegetable gardens and annual or perennial ornamental beds. Apply a 1-2” layer of compost as a mulch on top of your garden beds. You can purchase bags of compost, buy it in bulk, or start your own backyard compost pile.


Laura Matter, Natural Soil Building Program Manager at The Garden Hotline
The Garden Hotline can be reached at 206-633-0224, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions can also be emailed to help@gardenhotline.org.
More information can be found at http://www.gardenhotline.org/

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