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Understanding The Different Types of Mulch Available In Today’s Market

There are many types of mulch available to consumers in today’s market.  The different variances of mulch can be confusing.  Like for instance, the different mulch colors or the difference in having it double or triple shredded or different types of material that the mulch is made of.  It is important to understand the uses or preferences to determine the appropriate mulch.

Mulch Colors

First of all, the color of mulch is really just a cosmetic preference.  The mulch color will not benefit your plants or landscape beds other than the way it looks.  Just about any type of mulch can be colored to a black, brown or red.  The mulch will typically hold the color of your preference for about one year.  It is important to ask your landscape supplier what they use to color their mulch and ask them if the material is safe for your plants.

Another factor to consider is the texture of mulch.  The texture is determined by how many times the mulch has been shredded. There is single shredded mulch that is a thicker texture. There is double shredded and even triple shredded mulch that is a much finer texture. The finer or thinner the mulch, the easier it is to spread evenly in your landscape beds and the better it stays.  The other side of this is that the thinner the mulch is the faster it decomposes which turns into nurturance for your soil and landscape beds.  Keep in mind that the faster the mulch decomposes the faster you will need to replace it.  Texture is also a cosmetic feature in which some people prefer the look of double shredded or triple shredded mulch.

Double vs. Triple Shredded Mulch

Red Double Shredded Mulch

 Brown Triple Shredded Mulch

The most common materials that mulch is made of is hardwood bark or hardwood.  Bark mulch is made of the bark from a tree. The main advantage of using bark mulch is that it is does not attract termites or bugs as much as regular hardwood and it takes much longer to decompose.

Hardwood mulch is made primarily from the wood from a tree.  Hardwood mulch is much easier to shred allowing it to be a much finer texture.  Hardwood breaks down faster than bark mulch meaning that it will add nurturance to your soil and plants quicker. Hardwood mulch is much easier to spread evenly and stays in place well.  The down side is that you will need to re-apply hardwood mulch more frequently than bark mulch.

Both hardwood and bark mulches conserve moisture, protect agents weed growth and improve the appearance of your landscape beds!

 

How To Mulch Your Yard

Many people do not know how to properly mulch their landscape.  Often times home owners end up getting frustrated when their plants die or when weeds grow through the mulch or when they have to replace their mulch more than once before the year end.  Many times they blame the material but in reality they didn’t take the time to understand the benefits of mulch and how to effectively mulch their landscape beds.

First of all, you need to understand that there is more to mulch than just making your yard look nice. When mulch is applied correctly you can retain the following benefits from mulch.
Benefits of Proper Mulching

  • Mulch can give planting beds a uniform, well-cared-for look.
  • Helps control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds.
  • Helps maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized.
  • Some mulches can improve soil fertility.
  • Mulching around trees helps facilitate maintenance and can reduce the likelihood of damage from “weed whackers” or the dreaded “lawn mower blight.”
  • Mulch serves as nature’s insulating blanket. Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
  • Many types of mulch can improve soil aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time.
  • A layer of mulch can inhibit certain plant diseases.

By following theses easy steps you will ensure that you end up with optimal results when applying mulch to your landscape.

Step 1: Preparation

 

 A) Cutting Your Landscape Beds

 

If you are creating landscape beds it is important to make sure that they are cut properly. Many times you can use a flat edged shovel to do this. Follow a straight line digging in roughly 6’ down on an angle. This will work as a ledge to keep your mulch from spreading to the grass. If you are using landscape edging for this, it is important you follow the directions for installation.

B) Weed The Entire Area You Plan To Mulch.

Weed control is one of the main reasons why home owners and landscapers use mulch.  Mulch only stops weeds from growing because it blocks sunlight from getting to the weeds.  It is important to know that mature weeds can still grow without sunlight.  With that being said, it is very important that you pull ALL the weeds where you plan to mulch.

When pulling weeds; be sure to pull the weeds out by their roots.

 C) Put down a landscape fabric or spray area with weed repellent

Laying down landscape fabric is the best way to ensure that weeds do not grow through your mulch. Just lay the fabrics over your landscape beds and plants and cut accordingly.  The alternative to this is to spray a weed control in the area you are trying to mulch. Just be sure to not contaminate any flowers or plants in this process.

 Step 2:  Determine How Much Mulch you need!

 

 A) Measure the area you would plan to mulch

Measure how many feet long  and wide the bed is.  Multiply the length by the width to determine

the square footage you need to cover with mulch.

B) Determine how thick you want your mulch to be

It is recommended that you apply mulch 3” thick. If you are replenishing in an area that already has mulch you do not need to go as thick.

 C) Do the math

To calculate the volume of mulch you’ll need, multiply the square footage of the area to be covered (SF) by the depth of the mulch (DM). Multiply the result by 0.0031 to determine the number of cubic yards you’ll need. The equation looks like this:

SF x DM x 0.0031 = Cubic Yards.

Step 3: Buying Mulch

At this point you are probably asking the question how much mulch do I need? There are many types of mulch available in the market place. The most popular is Hardwood Mulch and Bark Mulch. Then there are inorganic mulches like lava rocks or pee gravel if you are just looking for a permanent fix to make your landscape beds look nice and prevent weeds.

A)    Different Types Of Mulch:

 Hardwood Mulches:

Hardwood mulch is probably the most popular of all the mulches:

  • They decompose quickly providing nurturance to your soils and plants
  • Hardwood mulch can be double or even triple shredded for desired texture
  • Are easily blended with other organic materials
  • Are often times colored enhanced
  • You have to replace hardwood mulch much more frequently because it decomposes
  • Hardwood mulches sometimes attract insects and other bugs. This is good because it can attract worms which brings more nurturance to your soil and plants but it can also attract termites and other undesirable insects

The two most popular hardwood mulches are: Cedar and Cypress

 Bark mulches: 

Bark mulch is very popular as well:

  • Bark Mulch has the same qualities as hardwood but it doesn’t decompose as quickly as hardwood.
  • Some bark mulches can be double and triple shredded for a more desirable texture
  • Are easily blended with other organic materials
  • Are often times colored enhanced
  • Bark mulch is known to be a natural bug repellant.

 

The most popular of the bark mulches is: Pine bark mulch  

 Inorganic mulches: 

Inorganic mulch is very popular in very hot desert type climates:

  • Work as decor for your landscape and as a weed suppressant
  • Inorganic mulches never decompose so you rarely have to replace them
  • Sometimes inorganic mulches get sun damaged and start to look worn over time
  • Problem with inorganic mulch is that it doesn’t add nurturance to your plants and soil and if you ever want to change your landscape you will have to remove the material from your landscape beds.

The most popular inorganic mulches are: pee gravel, lava rock and rubber mulch

 

 B) Understand The Quantities That Mulch Comes In:

Bagged mulch:

Buying mulch in bags has its advantages:

1) Bagged mulch is much lighter and easier to transport
2) you can pick up bagged mulch and put it in your car
3) you can place the bags across the yard so you don’t need to wheelbarrow
4) ideal for small areas

A 3 cubic foot bag will cover: 12 square feet at a depth of  3” thick.

Bulk Mulch:

Buying mulch in bulk has its advantages:

1) Bulk mulch is significantly more economical if you need more than 2 yards
2) You don’t need to rip and throw away bags
3) You will need a wheelbarrow and shovel to move the mulch

If you decide to go with bulk mulch, be sure you have it delivered on your driveway or on a tarp so you don’t get other materials like dirt and grass mixed in.  Also, mulch gets very heavy if it is wet so be sure you don’t get mulch delivered until you are ready to do the job and avoid doing your project on rainy days.

A cubic yard of mulch will cover: 108 square feet at a depth of  3” thick.

 Step 4: Spreading Mulch

 

Now you have determined how much mulch you need and have selected the appropriate mulch for your landscaped beds. You have picked up or had the mulch delivered to your house. You are now ready start spreading mulch into your landscaped beds!

A)   Spreading mulch with bagged product

1)    Spread bags out evenly across the area you wish to cover with mulch every 12 square feet.

2)    Cut open top right corner of the bags and spread evenly across the landscape beds. Keep in mind that you want to keep a 3” depth.

3)    Using the back side of a hard medal rake or using your hands is typically the best way to spread the mulch out evenly

4)    Pick up your plastic bags and throw them in the recycling bin.

5)    Enjoy your newly mulched landscape beds!

B) Spreading mulch with bulk product

1)    Make sure your mulch pile is on your driveway for ease of shoveling and to ensure that grass and other materials don’t get mixed in.

2)    Fill your wheelbarrow up with mulch and dump it in your landscape bed. Start by dumping half a wheel barrel full at a time and spreading evenly at a 3” depth. It is recommended that you start at the furthest distance away. As the day goes on you will most likely get a little fatigued and appreciate the shorter distances.

3)    Using the back side of a hard medal rake or using your hands is typically the best way to spread the mulch out evenly

4)    Once your mulch pile has depleted it is important to sweep your driveway or area that the mulch was on. If you don’t it can sometimes stain your driveway.

5)    Enjoy your newly mulched landscape beds!

If you follow these easy steps you can ensure that you, your family and neighbors will enjoy your freshly mulched landscape for years to come!