by Beau Propes
Mulch is an essential part of an organic landscape program. Take a cue from nature, which has been mulching forever in forests and prairies throughout the world. Leaves and plant materials fall and organisms within the soil recycle it, nourishing the surrounding plants and other organisms in the soil community, and that makes healthy forage for other animals further up the food chain. When applied to flower beds and around trees, mulch helps keep in moisture and the soil surface cooler, benefiting earthworms, microorganisms and the roots of plants.
Weeds grow more readily on bare soil, and mulch helps prevent weed germination; a two-to-three-inch layer is usually sufficient. When mulching around trees, be sure to leave the base of the tree and the root flare exposed. Taper mulch away from the trunk to the desired depth. It should never look like a volcano.
Native hardwood mulch breaks down well into a usable organic matter over time, stays in place moderately well in rain storms and enhances the landscape. Other mulch materials include pecan shells, pine, cypress or cedar bark. Cypress or other mulch that loses its color in the sun can be turned to bring back some of the color. Pecan shells resist erosion well, but may not be the easiest to walk on barefoot. In some areas that tend to stay wet or get a lot of traffic or water flow, stone or gravel can be a good solution instead of mulch. With painted or dyed wood chips, the color may last longer, but they add little value to the soil. A good mulch will have been “cooked” in piles for a few weeks so it doesn’t rob nitrogen from plants as it starts to break down; this also helps with any disease from plants that were shredded, as well
Mulch can be done at any time, but especially in summer if existing mulch is thin or gone, to protect the plants and soil ecosystem through the heat. Usually, mulching once a year is fine ad it can be done more often if mulch begins to break down or is getting thin.
Beau Propes is the owner and operator of Earth Kind Services, which provides organic compost lawn treatments and mulching services. For more information or to discuss a soil amendment for lawn or garden, call 469- 744-0281 or visit EarthKindServices.com.