What are the best mulch choices and what are some of the benefits?

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  • Rick Greco

  • The best choices for today's homeowner is hemlock or cedar, especially those interested insect control. The benefits of these two choices are longevity and overall appearance. The dyed mulches and natural hardwood will also spruce up your property but lack the advantages that hemlock and cedar provide.

    Mulch not only makes your landscaping look good, but is an essential for the survival of your trees, shrubs, and plantings during a drought. Not only that, mulch will reduce the amount of water that evaporates from your soil, significantly reducing your need to water your plants.

    Additionally, mulch improves the quality and condition of your soil by breaking up clay and allowing better water and air movement throughout the soil. Mulch provides nutrients to sandy soil and improves its ability to hold water.

    Mulch acts as an insulating layer on top of soil, keeping it cooler in the summer. This benefit is especially valuable during the spring when you don't want your plants to be stressed and is extremely beneficial for the plants roots.

    Another beauty of mulch is that it helps with weed control. Weeds are not only unsightly, but they also steal resources from your plantings. The right amount of mulch helps keep weeds at bay, and the weeds that do grow are much easier to pull.

    In order to reap the full benefit of mulch it's important to install the correct amount. A thin coating on the surface of the soil won't give you any of the advantages you're looking for. A depth of at least two inches is necessary for moisture retention and weed control.

    One cubic yard of mulch will cover about 160 square feet at this depth. Spread the mulch material loosely to the desired depth. You will need to top up the material every year, or at least every second year, as the material compacts and begins to gradually decompose at the soil level.

    Some things to keep in mind before applying mulch.

    . Remove weeds and water the area to be mulched thoroughly. This will help you get the most benefit from your new mulch.

    . Replace the grass under trees with mulch to minimize competition for water and nutrients. This mimics the way trees grow in nature.

    . Keep mulch 6 inches away from the base of trees and shrubs.

    . Apply 2" to 4" inches of mulch in all planting areas. Finer mulches (sized a half-inch or smaller) should be applied no more than 2" inches deep. Courser mulches, such as large bark chips, can be applied 4" inches deep.

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