Mulch Madness from Peach Country Tractor
Let’s take a closer look at mulch – the material that is spread over a garden surface to block weeds, inhibit soil erosion, nourish the soil, and make your plantings look pretty. There is so much more to mulch than meets the eye (or the back), so we’re going to jump right in.
Depending on your gardening goals, either organic mulch or inorganic mulch may be your ticket to a beautiful landscape cover. Organic mulch is made from natural materials spread directly over the soil that break down over time. It suppresses weeds and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes. Organic mulch can be shredded or chipped tree bark, grass clippings, straw, shredded leaves, pine needles, newspaper, or combinations of the abovementioned. Inorganic mulch can be stone, gravel, or rubber pellets with the option of porous matting underneath to block weeds and allow water absorption.
Inorganic mulch lasts the longest because it does not decompose. Organic mulches decompose over time and can become part of the soil. The best depth for mulch in a garden is about 3 inches, but a lot depends on where you are mulching and what kind of mulch is being used.
What kind of mulch is best to use?
It depends on the area – mulch is soil or ground covering used flower and vegetable gardens, planters, barns, playgrounds, equestrian training grounds, edging, and much more.
- Bark mulches are terrific for basic garden beds, around trees, decorative plantings, and walkways. Bark mulches are rough-chopped, with larger pieces and shreds, best for holding moisture and weed suppression. They are woody and don’t always mix well into the soil. The best time to add bark mulch is in the spring when the perennials have already started growing, and the soil has warmed. Fall is another good time to add bark mulch as you can pull summer weeds, protect your garden from winter weather, and help retain moisture for perennial plants.
- Peach Country Tractor offers a variety of mulches, including Black, Brown, or Red Dyed Mulch to enhance any landscape. The dyes used in making colored mulch are safe for plants, wildlife, pets, and people. Black mulch is dyed with carbon, the main component of charcoal. Brown mulch owes its color variations to vegetable-based dyes, and red mulch is dyed with iron oxide for that lovely rust color.
- Triple Shredded Hardwood Mulch is a more finely shredded mulch, usually a dark tan or brown in color. This mulch is excellent for holding in moisture and reduces weed growth. Since the mulch is a denser shred, it mixes a little better in the soil, but old layers should still be removed before adding more mulch.
- Virgin Root Mulch is made of finely ground-up roots and stumps. The smaller pieces spread throughout a garden easily and provide excellent water retention and weed control. Since this mulch is more finely ground, it mixes better with the soil and adds volume, especially when adding fertilizer and other soil amendments.
- Playground Mulch may look like regular mulch or wood chips, but it’s not! The wood chips in playground mulch are smaller, made from untreated “inner tree” wood, and are run through a sawmill for a softer texture. This provides a safe, splinter-free cushion and fewer potential playground allergens. Experts recommend that playground mulch be started with a minimum depth of 12 inches deep and, as it compacts from use, be maintained at a minimum depth of 9 inches.
- Rubber Mulch is inorganic, so it does not break down like standard mulch. It is pretty much permanent and would need to be completely removed if changing up a garden. However, it is increasingly popular for playgrounds, equestrian training areas, and even landscaping. As with any soil topping, there are advantages and disadvantages. Rubber mulch is synthetic, often made from recycled tires. It provides a ground cover but does not absorb or hold water. However, it keeps weeds from spreading, inhibits erosion, and lasts for a long time. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering Rubber Mulch:
- It is synthetic, not organic, so it does not decompose or add nutrients to the soil
- Since rubber mulch is often made from recycled tires, it may contain chemicals that could cause allergic reactions.
- Over time, rubber mulch lasts longer than organic mulches
- It is a strong barrier to fungus and weed growth
Wood Chips, like playground mulch, are made from the softer inner wood of the tree, hold moisture, and are denser than shredded bark mulches. While comparatively inexpensive, wood chips may inhibit root expansion and absorb and hold water before reaching root depth due to their density. Wood chips can be great for vegetable gardening, but the chips take a few years to break down. Plus, it is important to know the source of the wood and how it was treated before it was turned into mulch. These are some of the questions to ask the experts at Peach Country Tractor.
Stone and Gravel are other inorganic materials used as a soil topping. Stones can work their way into the ground and should be considered permanent. With matting underneath, they are effective barriers to weeds and erosion, allowing water and fertilizer nutrients to seep through.