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There are a few things you should keep in mind when deciding how much mulch to spread around your plants. The mulch shouldn’t cover the entire trunk of the plant. You also don’t want to mound the mulch too high, as that could smother it.
Additionally, avoiding mounding the mulch up against the trunk can help prevent weed seeds and herbicide residue from reaching the plant’s roots. Hopefully, these tips will help you make the right choice for your plants.
Avoid smothering perennials in mulch
One way to prevent smothering perennials is to remove the mulch before the ground thaws. If you leave the mulch in place too long, it will encourage the growth of harmful mold. Perennials do not like suffocating in this way. Rather, use mulch sparingly, leaving no more than two or three inches of soil. Here are some tips to follow:
Never smother perennials in mulch. The crown of perennial plants is where the buds for the next year’s growth are produced. Don’t smother perennials with mulch, as this will upset their biology and lead to crown rot. Don’t use organic mulch on perennials that don’t require good air circulation or drainage. Instead, use the right mulch mix for each type of perennial. If you’re unsure about which type of mulch to use, ask a local gardener for guidance.
In general, the principle of not smothering perennials applies to flower beds as well. Mulching shallow-rooted plants like yarrows and many bellflowers can smother other perennials. For example, thick mulch can keep peonies from blooming, and a thick layer will choke out the root system. The same principle applies to daylilies. It’s advisable to wait until new shoots have emerged from the soil before removing the mulch.
Another important tip for winter garden maintenance is to prune your plants before the ground freezes. Weeds with seeds will be harder to eliminate in spring, so it’s better to remove them as early as possible. Also, edging and mulching are optional for hardy perennials and newly planted perennials. However, mulching will give your garden a uniform look and will keep it looking great throughout the year.
Avoid mounding mulch up against the trunk
Trees and shrubs are ideally protected from moisture and pests by mulch, but you should avoid mounding mulch up against their trunks. Mulch can trap moisture around the trunk, encouraging decay and pests. Overmulching also weakens the trunk by creating an environment where decaying bark and wounds are constantly wet. Infestations by fungal or bacterial pathogens can encircle trees and eventually kill them.
Mulch is useful for many purposes. It protects plants from foot traffic, suppresses weeds, and improves soil fertility. It is particularly beneficial in urban landscapes, where soils are usually compacted and lack organic matter. Mounding mulch around plants will not only keep soil healthy and preserve soil structure, but will also protect the plants from pests and diseases. For these reasons, mulching is important.
Trees that are newly planted need water and mulches should be applied a few inches away from the trunk. The mulch should extend two inches beyond the drip line, and should not touch the trunk. This will prevent pests from feeding on the tree’s bark. Besides the moisture it provides, mulch should be applied regularly and slowly to avoid runoff. If you notice any signs of moisture stress, water the plants immediately.
It is common for landscapers to overmulch their landscape trees. This overmulching is most noticeable when the mulch extends up the trunk, smothering the root flare and the root zone. Overmulching trees is known as “volcano mulching” and can lead to major health issues. So, when mulching your trees, keep in mind the benefits of mulch and its importance.
Avoid weed seeds
While mulching your garden, be careful not to spread weed seeds. Weeds will often root into landscape fabric and thrive in these conditions. If you are buying compost or manure, make sure to check for weed seeds before applying it to your garden. If you are buying compost or manure in bags, you will know that the soil is sterilized and the materials have been treated to prevent weed seed germination.
Weeds are a constant struggle in gardening. It can be very frustrating to deal with these aggressive plants, but there are methods that can make it much easier. Mulch helps a lot in preventing weed seeds from blowing into your garden. This can make your landscaping project much more efficient. Weed control can be difficult, but with the right tools and techniques, you can get rid of weeds forever.
Mulch the soil regularly to reduce weed seed bank. Mulching your garden with organic material reduces the weed seed bank. However, you still have to be vigilant when it comes to pulling weed seeds. Weeds lay dormant in the soil for years or decades. If you are too busy to keep your garden clean, clip the weed flowers and seedheads with a garden snipper to remove them before they germinate.
While hay and tree leaves are the best materials to use for mulching, they do contain weed seeds. Tree leaves are less likely to contain weed seeds than hay, but they can still carry weed seeds from the forest floor. If you have problems dealing with weeds in mulch, you can use pre-emergent herbicides to kill them. A common herbicide that works well is Roundup, which contains the chemical glyphosate. You may also want to consider natural weed-killers instead.
Avoid herbicide residues
You should always avoid herbicide residues when mulching plants, compost, or soil. While some residues break down when composted, the remaining chemicals can harm your plants for an entire growing season. These herbicides can also persist in soil after composting. That means you should be careful with composted materials, even if they’re made from organic sources. You should also avoid using a compost made from animal or mushroom manures.
While you can buy preemergence herbicides that are designed for use on ornamentals, it’s still best to use them properly. Most of them are more effective when they’re applied under organic mulches. Avoid using products that have a high level of wettable powder residues because they tend to be dusty and can be dangerous to handle. Herbicides that can be applied over mulched plants include Biathlon, Double O, Permaguard, and RegalStar II. You should also be careful not to use herbicides that contain Casoron, which is volatile and sensitive to sunlight.
Many people use manure-based compost, but this material can have herbicide residues. Some herbicides are approved for use on pastures and forage crops, but can damage broadleaf, legume, and solanaceous plants. To test for the presence of herbicides in compost, use a simple plant bioassay. There are many different types of compost, so it is important to look for one that contains less herbicide residues.
Using compost made from contaminated soil is another option to use contaminated soil mix. Many compost manufacturers do not warn consumers of the presence of herbicide residues in their compost, so you should always check the labels to see if the pesticide is registered for use on your crops. You can also use composted soil to cover a vegetable garden bed if you have an herbicide-contaminated lawn. The contaminated soil mix can break down herbicides in your plants when composted with it.
Avoid smothering woody plants
The best way to protect woody plants from suffocation is to avoid smothering them with mulch. Woody plants and shrubs have stems, and mulching them completely can result in a “volcano” of mulch around their trunks. If you do mulch the stems of these plants, you risk suffocation by allowing water to reach the soil below. Moreover, mulching plants that have bark can cause the bark to girdle or rot. Ultimately, this can cause the plant to die.
Aim to maintain a uniform depth of mulch around established plants, but remember that too much mulch can suffocate young plants. Avoid locating mulch piles next to trees or buildings, as these can attract pests. The mulch around trees should extend past the drip line and cover a realistic portion of the root system. In addition to these considerations, avoid smothering woody plants with mulch if you have a woody landscape.
Adding mulch to a lawn or garden is a healthy way to protect plants from pests and weeds. It also retains moisture and encourages the breakdown of organic matter in soil. Mulch also improves soil aeration and prevents compaction. Aeration helps prevent root diseases, so don’t forget to add compost to your lawn. The added organic matter will make your soil more fertile and healthy.
Over-mulching is a leading cause of the death of many landscape plants. Many azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwood, mountain laurel, and holly will die because their roots won’t be able to compete with mulch. In addition, bark dust and sawdust contain high levels of nitrogen, making them incompatible for woody plants.