I felt I should do a post on mulching because there’s a lot of it going on out there. Unfortunately, a fair amount of the mulching I see is done incorrectly and, in many cases, unnecessarily.
The sketch below illustrates a cross-section view of a mulch layer properly installed. The depth of the mulch should be approximately 2 to 3″. Also, notice how the mulch tapers down as it gets near the trunk of the plant. Mulch can be a great asset to a plant.
- It acts as an insulator moderating soil temperature.
- It helps hold moisture in the ground.
- It helps control weed growth.
- Looks great!
Well if it does all that, then the more I put down the better, right? Wrong!! When the mulch layer gets too thick it actually works against the plant, suffocating the roots just as if it were planted too deep.
Perhaps where people go wrong is just thinking about appearance. Homeowners just love the look and, quite frankly, landscapers like it as well.
Just take a look at these next two pictures. (You can click on them to enlarge.) I visited this project that was less than a year old. I can assure you it did not need mulch, but mulching was in the “maintenance contract.” So, need it or not, this property was getting mulch.
To the left you see a “volcano” of mulch piled up against the trunk of this young dogwood. Look how neatly this landscaper made this pyramid. I’m sure he was very proud of his work. However, it would just be a matter of time before this plant started to decline from this mulch entombment.
To the right is the tree after I removed the excess mulch. You can see the wet trunk and the line where the mulch had been piled up. I think I even heard the plant’s sigh of relief as I walked away.
How We Can All Benefit From Not Over-Mulching
The benefits for the homeowner are obvious. The plantings will stay healthy and money will be saved. Not only is money saved from the needless cost of mulching, but possibly from plant replacements and/or “treatments” that may be scheduled for plants declining from over-mulching.
For the landscape contractor this is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and integrity. Advising your customers on the facts about mulching and the true benefits when it’s done correctly earns their respect. If you consistently guide them with their best interests in mind everyone benefits. Not only will they be receptive to your suggestions of things they truly need, but they’ll confidently recommend you to others.