Saturday, March 10, 2012

Time to Mulch - Here are Some Tips

Spring is around the corner!  With the onset of nicer weather comes the another season...gardening season.  Soon we will  be out in the yard, saying good bye to Old Man Winter and hello to what the harsh wintery conditions have left behind.  Most likely your garden and landscaping needs some TLC.  A clean up or debris, a tilling of the soil and a new layer of mulch will get your garden or landscaping ready for a prosperous spring and summer, which will be here before you know it!


Organic Solutions, Inc., a sister company of Trees "R" Us, Inc.  will provide you with several varieties of mulch to choose from.  Mulch is an important part of keeping your trees, garden and landscaping not only looking beautiful, but also keeping them healthy.
Mulch actually protects plants.  It should be spread 3-6 inches deep on top of exposed soil between plants. Mulch is by far the best way to preserve the water in your soil and can be a very effective way of feeding your soil and regulating growing temperatures. Mulch can be almost anything: straw, grass clippings, corn cobs, river stones, pea gravel, chipped bricks, bark chips, leaves, peat moss, seaweed, wood ashes, sawdust and so on.  It can be organic or inorganic.  However, I recommend living and organic mulch that act as a natural insect deterrent and that have natural fungi to help with soil restoration.
Mother Nature dislikes uncovered and exposed ground. Walk out into nature and look down. In a healthy ecosystem you will find very little, if any, bare ground. Nature will always try to cover soil with either plant growth, decaying matter or even inorganic matter. Trees drop their leaves and cover the floor of a forest for example. You’ll want to imitate the same process in your garden.
Why mulch?
Mulch helps preserve water and regulate the temperature in your soil, but it also prevents the growth of weeds, protects soil from compaction, cuts down on erosion and, if organic, feeds your soil. As the mulch decomposes, it provides that vital organic matter to your soil, encourage microbe growth and shelter earthworms. All that organic matter keeps your soil loose so that it can retain moisture and promote root growth.
Types of Mulch
Organic Solutions, Inc. offers 6 different types of mulch. All are very affordable and can be delivered right to your home or business. Check out our mulching calculator to a quick way to see how much mulch you'll need and what it will cost you.  
For you do-it-yourselfers out there, look around your yard and house for matter that could be used as mulch.  
Grass clippings
Grass clippings make excellent mulch. They are easy to spread between small vegetable plants and if you have a lawn, you will have a steady supply to layer on throughout the summer.
Newspaper
Old newspaper also works quite well, especially against weeds.
Leaves
Leaves are another material to use as mulch. Remember that forest floor? Leaf mold from the decomposed remains of leaves gives the forest floor that spongy structure and holds a heck of a lot of water.
Old Clothing
You can also use old cotton or wool clothing cut into strips. You can even use old carpet like this, too.
Wood Chips
Bark chips can be purchased through Organic Solutions, Inc.  Our 6 different types of mulch are of the utmost quality and they will preserve soil moisture and eventually help your soil – and they look awfully nice in the garden.
Straw
Hay or straw can also be purchased as can seaweed mulches.
Living Mulch
Another type of mulch is so-called ‘living mulch’. Organic Solutions, Inc. offers living mulch as well.  I highly recommend using living mulch for you landscaping and garden.  These are plants that grow very close to the ground under the main crop. They can grow very fast and have all the benefits of other types of mulch. 
Plastic Mulch
Some recommend plastic mulches but I strongly urge you to avoid this ‘plasticulture’. For one, you are adding nothing to your soil except, possibly, leached chemicals. Worse, covering your soil with plastic can kill the microbes and other life that will make your garden vibrant. Under plastic the soil can’t get the water, air and nutrients it needs to thrive. Plants grown with plastic mulches can very weak root systems that leave the plant malnourished and subject to damage from winds.  With all the mulching options, I would avoid this one at all costs.
Here’s a great resource to the advantages and disadvantages of differenttypes of mulch, including details on calculating how much mulch to use and spreading mulch.
Also, be thoughtful about the use of inorganic materials as mulch. They can be difficult to remove and will not feed your soil. One way to deal with this, every fall scatter quality ready compost on top of the inorganic materials by hand and then let the winter snows and spring rains wash it in.
How to Properly Mulch
The area you mulch should include as much of the root zone as possible. For my trees and larger shrubs I mulch an area that extends about 4 feet out from the base of the tree and to the drip-line of the shrub. I also pull the mulch about 2 inches out from the base of the trees to avoid bark decay. The mulch should not be touching the tree. Here is a good rundown of how to mulch trees and shrubs.
While a thick layer of mulch is a good thing be careful that it is not too thick (not more than 6 inches) as the roots of your plants may seek out moisture in the mulch and not deep in the soil.
When you apply your mulch will depend on what you are trying to achieve. I mulch my trees in the autumn to protect them from the cold. Mulch can keep the soil from freezing too deeply.
In the vegetable garden I wait to apply the new layer of mulch until after the plants are up or after I have put in the transplants. For the perennials, I wait until late in the spring or even into early summer to put down a layer of mulch. Some people like to mulch early in the spring to encourage the warming of the soil. This can work in dry environments but in wetter regions this may keep your soil too wet or waterlogged which will in turn rot your seeds. Your own observation will be key on figuring this one out, or give us a call at Organic Solutions, Inc. and we will be happy to help you determine when to mulch.
Now, go forth and mulch!
Thanks for reading,
Nick

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