Mulch installation is one of the best ways to instantly enhance the look of your area lawn and landscape. However, if applied wrong, you can damage or even kill plants, encourage pests, and create a larger problem down the road.
Here are some of the things NOT to do when applying mulch this season in Washington:
- Do not put landscape fabric or plastic under mulch. If it’s already there, remove it before adding your new fresh layer. Mulch is biodegradable and therefore it is suppose to slowly become compost in the soil. When you place weed barrier down, you prevent this process from occurring and instead end up with a think layer of composted mulch where weeds easily germinate. Mulch will also build up over time and begin to choke out plants.
- Do not apply mulch too thick. If a little is good than a lot is better, right? No! Three to four inches is plenty. When mulch gets too thick then water can’t get to the soil. In this case, rather than holding moisture for the plants, we are preventing moisture. Also, mulch that is too thick invites unwanted insects and rodents as well as molds. On the flip side, the right amount of mulch encourages the healthy insects and will not increase mold and mildew. Mulch applied correctly does not cause insect problems as some people claim. Finally, mulch doesn’t break down very fast. If you add mulch every year make sure to only top dress and keep watching the thickness of the mulch. If it’s getting too thick either skip a year (turn it over to help give a fresh look) or remove some old mulch to the compost pile before applying the new layer.
- Chose the right color and type of mulch. Your home has a color and character and the mulch you apply should match that. Just because your neighbor’s home looks great with red mulch doesn’t mean your red home will also look great with red mulch. Make sure it contrasts and looks good for your yard.
- Don’t put down large wood chips. Wood chips are not a mulch. Wood chips are more similar to stone in that they don’t retain water and they don’t prevent weeds. If you really like wood chips, then get a good weed barrier and treat them like you would stone.
- Don’t get cheap mulch. Mulch shouldn’t look like dirt. At least not if you are using it to aide your landscape’s appearance. I strongly recommend the color enhanced mulches because they a) retain their bright colors mulch longer; b) decay a little slower meaning you can apply them every other year, or only apply just enough to top dress each year. If you don’t like the “colored” look of mulch, such as bright reds, oranges, gold, or black, then you can use dark or light brown color enhanced. This product looks very natural, but unlike the “dark hardwood” mulch, it holds it color and does not have the faded look after the first month.
- Finally, don’t buy mulch by the bag. Unless you have a very little amount to apply, the best option is usually to buy it by the yard from a local nursery. They will even deliver it for you and with a wheel barrow and a scoop shovel you can spread your mulch out in no time.