How to avoid common mulch mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that gardeners make when installing mulch prod- ucts. Review the following tips so you don’t make these mistakes too.

Improper Mounding

Be careful to ensure that the layer of mulch is not too thick around the tree and piled up against the stem. This can prevent water from penetrating the soil where the plant needs it. Mulch applied in this manner can also remain very moist causing rot or large fungal growth or even spontaneous combustion depending on the type of mulch product.

Secondly do not allow the mulch to create a well around the base of the plant. The well area will trap water around the base of the plant causing the soil to remain very wet, most likely causing the roots of the plant to rot. Over time, the warm and moist conditions created by the mound- ing of the mulch will trick the plant into thinking is should develop more roots into the mulch layer. These roots are shallow, weak and very unde- sirable. The development of these roots also takes stored energy away from the plant preventing it from growing properly or even flowering or producing fruit that sea- son. The mulch should not touch the base of the tree or plant directly and should slope slightly away from the base of the plant.

Mulch Layer Too Thin

A layer of mulch that is applied too thinly, results in the weeds below the mulch penetrating the mulch barrier and growing through the barrier. This makes for a very frustrating situation as you have mulch that is full of weeds that are hard to remove. Remedy this by removing all weeds and then applying a thicker layer of mulch on top of the already installed mulch layer.

Mulch Materials Not Properly Composted

When mulch products are not properly composted such as manure they can create excess heat that can burn the tender stems of plants. Rapidly composting materials while installed as mulches can also lock nitrogen or oxygen into the decaying process taking these vital nutrients away from the plants themselves.

Weeds Not Eradicated Prior To Application

After all of the time and effort applying mulch you do not want the old weeds to grow through your mulch. Once the mulch is in place it is much harder to pull out the old weeds. Make sure to take the time to prepare the soil properly and remove all weeds prior to laying down the mulch product in order to ensure the mulch remains as weed free over time as possible.

Plastics Used Under Mulch Around Trees And Shrubs

Remember from a previous column that plastics should be used as only a temporary mulch product for warming the soil and killing weeds. Using plastic around plants with a mulch layer overtop will prevent water and nutrients from penetrating down to the root zone over time starving the plant of water, nutrients and oxygen.

Make sure that you don’t make these common mistakes when installing your mulch products so you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of mulch that is properly installed for years to come.