Mulch; It’s not just for looks

ELLIS COUNTY — When the spring season comes to Ellis County, the natural beauty of the roadside wildflowers helps to inspire many to get out in their flowerbeds and gardens and start planting. Many homeowners and landscape companies are aware of the need for mulch to make a bed look nice and clean, but far too few are aware of the proper way to mulch and all of the benefits proper mulching provides. Mulching is a key component to a healthy, easy-maintenance planting — even in gardens.

Go Native!

If you take a drive through an upscale neighborhood around Ellis County you'll notice that many of the homes have mulch that has been dyed red or black. This mulch may look a bit nicer than natural undyed varieties, but it is usually the least helpful for the soil and the plants that grow in the soil. These dyed mulches are usually made up of hard woods that are foreign to the micro-organisms in our Ellis County soil. The organisms don't know how to break down this foreign material so it usually just sits and slowly decomposes without adding much to the soil. Always remember that organic material that breaks down easily is always the best. Leaves would be the perfect mulch if they didn't blow around so easily.

When looking for the best mulch, Go Native! Native mulch is made up of trees and plant material that grows right here in Ellis County and surrounding areas. The micro-organisms in our soil are familiar with this organic material and they get right to work decomposing the mulch and enriching the soil. It may not look as fancy as the dyed mulches, but what you lose in aesthetics you will more than make up for in soil and plant health.

Go Big!

Another drawback of many types of mulch out there is that the individual pieces of mulch are too small. The mulch is usually spread out too thin and it ends up being blown away by the wind and/or washed away by the rain in a short period of time. This problem can be solved by using mulch that is "rough cut". Rough cut mulch is not shredded into really small pieces; it consists of small, medium, and large pieces of wood which gives it a lot more staying power. It lasts longer and saves the homeowner a lot of time, energy, and money in the long run. So, when looking for the best mulch, Go Big! Don't let the wind and rain rob you of mulch.

Go Thick!

This is the most common problem I run into when dealing with flowerbeds around the area; people with mulch in their beds that is only one or two inches thick. The homeowner may believe he or she is saving money by cutting back on the mulch, but they are actually going to spend more money, time, and energy in the long run. Trying to water plants because of exposed dry soil, pulling or treating weeds, and buying new mulch frequently can all add up and that's if you don't have to replace dead plants. The solution is to lay the mulch on pretty thick. In order for your big native mulch to reach its full potential, it needs to be at least four inches thick. This thick layer of material serves as a barrier to several elements; it serves as a barrier to weeds and reduces the need to pull or treat, it serves as a barrier to evaporation and helps keep the soil moist (which keeps those micro-organisms healthy and happy), and it serves as a barrier to cold and helps insulate tender perennials in the cold months. Thick mulch also looks much better and lasts much longer, so when laying down your mulch, Go Thick!

Go Rock! (When needed)

There are those certain places in many beds where you just can't seem to keep mulch no matter how big or thick it is. Maybe it's on a hill and the wind carries it away. Maybe it's around a drain spout or in an area that washes out every time it rains or maybe it's on a corner where kids and pets constantly kick the mulch away. When looking for a solution to these problem areas, Go Rock! The mulching benefits of rock don't come close to those of organic mulch, but rock is better than bare soil. Stones and rocks come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and this gives the homeowner a wide range of options to choose from when he or she is the market for a sedimentary solution. Some areas may require pea gravel, while other places might call for a boulder.

Now, Go Mulch! And remember; the natural way is God's way and God's way is the best way!