If there’s one singular thing you can do for their garden or landscape- one simple action you can take that could potentially bring your plants back to life and prevent current and future disasters, it’s mulching. And I’m not necessarily talking about pre colored cypress bark that you see surrounding lonely barberries in a Target parking lot. I’m talking about real mulching with real, workable materials that your plants will eventually be able to benefit from. Granted, painted chunks of wood still have the potential to break down into the soil eventually, but the process is slow and ugly and isn’t meant to serve the purposes that mulch should be serving.
If you’ve ever taken a hike through an undisturbed forest, or stopped to really look at what’s going on under that “messy” tree of yours in the fall, you’ll get a better understanding of what mulch is and what it’s meant to do. Look on the ground. What do you see? Depending on the time of year, you’ll see something different. Most notably, in the fall, you’ll see a colorful blanket of spent leaves, covering everything they land on. If they do this on your lawn, you may see a problem. In the forest, those leaves are far from a problem. They’re a necessary and welcome part of the ecosystem.
Mother Nature doesn’t do anything by accident. Those fallen leaves are full of all the necessary nutrients that the plants and animals in the soil on the forest floor need. They also provide protection from the winter weather, offering a barrier between the soil and the freezing temperatures above. During the growing season, the mulch keeps the soil on the forest floor evenly moist and cool, creating a suitable environment for plants and animals to thrive and flourish. The size and thickness of the leaf cover is easily and quickly broken down by the organisms living in the soil, which then improves the soil and makes the nutrients from those leaves available to the plants again, starting the cycle over.
In a controlled environment such as a garden or landscape with an artificial array of plant materials, attempting to let everything naturally mulch itself is impossible. That job belongs to the gardener. Most people know mulching as an aesthetic tool, to improve the looks of a landscape. However using mulch for this manner alone is counter effective for the long term health of that landscape or garden. You have to consider mulch materials that can break down quickly and easily into the soil, and prepare to reapply your mulch layers at least once a year- not once every few years.
Commercial mulch materials that improve soil do exist. Choose smaller grade material, and try to find alternatives to mulch that’s comprised of chunks of dry wood. Dry wood will break down into the soil but it takes a long time and also makes that area difficult to work with once it’s laid down. I don’t know about you, but one of the most annoying things about redoing someone’s mistake in the landscape is trying to push a shovel through chunky cypress mulch. It’s no fun. Cocoa bean hull mulch is a good alternative if you’re looking to buy and bring home bags of mulch.
You can also use material from your home. Recreate the woods by using raked and bagged leaves as your mulch. It’s free and simple to do. You can even take the time to run your leaves through a mower or chipper to create smaller pieces of leaf material before you spread it. Grass clippings from mowing the lawn work very well as a mulch. Yard waste in terms of branches and stumps can be ground down to a fine wood “dust” and used as mulch. Compost is the best mulch in my opinion, and if you’re running your own compost heap, fresh mulch is available to you any time you need it. Straw and hay make good protective mulches over tender plants as protection in the winter- I’ve protected plenty of pushed zone perennials using mulch over them in the winter.
Rock mulch has its place, but the way it’s been used for years is a landscaping shame and a mistake. Rocks offer nothing in terms of nutrients to the soil. They don’t stop weeds (and neither does plastic or cloth weed barrier, but that’s for another story). In a barren, hot parking lot they do not offer shelter to the crown and roots of shrubs, plants, and trees. They’re messy and they mess up equipment. The only times you should ever use rock mulch is when you’re using it in lieu of plantings. Foundation strips without plants, completely naked parking lot aisles, drains, places like that. Rock mulch should never be used on top of a weed barrier and around any kind of plantings.
Mulching will greatly increase the productivity of your garden and landscape, and offer refuge for the healthy organisms you need for a healthy ecosystem in your garden. They give protection to tender crowns and roots, and protect tender plants in the winter. They can be attractive, but consider the health benefits first before you choose a mulch for its uniformity and apparent visual “appeal”. For me, nothing is more beautiful than a healthy and thriving shrub growing among perfectly black and amazing composted soil. I’d take that over a parking lot of rock mulch any day.
Your landscape is a large living investment and like most investments the more information about it, the more you get in return. Most of us regard mulch as having one function, to give our landscape a fresh new appeal. The truth is, properly laid mulch has many other functions that are vital to the health and life of our plants.
There are basically two types of mulch, organic — such as hardwood, bark chips, leaves and pine straw that easily decompose and inorganic — such as stones, brick chips and dyed rubber that are permanent. Although inorganic mulches have their place in the landscape, this tip sheet will be limited to the use of organic mulches.
Why Should I Mulch?
Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in your landscape. In addition to giving your planting beds a uniform, well-cared for look, mulch will:
· Help maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized
· Help control weeds. A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds.
· Serve as nature’s insulating blanket. Mulch keeps soils warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.
· Improve soil aeration, structure (aggregation of soil particles), and drainage over time.
· Improve soil fertility.
· Can inhibit certain plant diseases.
Plants growing in a natural wooded environment have their roots anchored in a rich, well aerated soil full of essential minerals. Urban landscapes, however, are typically a much harsher environment with poor soils, little organic matter, and large fluctuations in temperature and moisture. Applying a 2 – to – 4 inch layer of organic mulch can mimic a more natural environment and improve plant health.
While mulching can be beneficial to your landscape, if improperly applied it can be equally harmful. Most organic mulches must be replenished but the rate of decomposition varies. Coarser mulches may remain intact for many years while finer mulches many need replenished every year or two.
· Define the edges of your landscape beds using a garden spade or power edger. Cutting a 3 to 4 inch deep trough along the edge of your landscape bed will keep mulch from bleeding into the turf.
· Check the depth of your existing mulch. If there is an existing layer of mulch, either remove or replace with fresh mulch or till the existing layer
· Not too much! Deep mulch can lead to excess moisture in the root zone. Remember recommended mulching depth is 2 to 4 inches.
· Piling mulch against the trunk of plants can stress stem tissues and may lead to insect and disease problems.
· For trees, the mulch bed should be as large as the drip line of the tree. This will ensure the feeder roots, located near or even beyond the drip line of the tree, will be protected from drying out as quick and receive nutrients from the mulch.
· Thick blankets of fine mulch can become matted and may prevent the penetration of water and air. In addition, a thick layer of fine mulch can become like potting soil and may support weed growth.
· For landscape beds that do not drain well, apply a thinner layer of mulch.
Remember, your landscape is a large living investment and the more information you know about it, the more you can expect in return.
Tips for Finding Commercial Garden Landscaping Service Providers
Landscaping is a popular hobby among all lovers of nature and natural beauty, since it is their outlet into the heart of the Earth within the limits of their homes. But, creating a garden and maintaining it are two completely different things, and one cannot survive without the other. Most of the times, people are unable to take of their garden after planting it, and in such scenarios, companies that provide commercial garden landscaping service come as lifesavers. Such firms are typically involved with this field for a long time and hold proficiency in rendering quality service at affordable costs.
Usually, a company engaged in rendering commercial cleaning services offers executes landscaping jobs too. So, finding such an organization is not difficult since they have mushroom across the world. The firms that commission these gardening related services make use of the most environmentally sensitive practices while carrying out the requisite jobs. All industrial garden maintenance, landscaping services are conducted with expertise by the personnel of such organizations. The professionals possess extensive experience in beautifying the gardens of their clients, a feat that the laymen cannot achieve. This is the main advantage of hiring a professional landscaping service provider, since the quality of work is always unmatchable in its own respect.
Any firm that renders commercial garden maintenance, landscaping services carries out an inspection of the premises of their clients. This includes checking the area to be covered (in order to determine the time limit), services to be provided and assessing the requirements of the clients. By evaluating all of the above mentioned items in detail, a plan is created for the clients. This plan can be tailor made for the customers or be a part of a standard package, depending upon the practices of the company. The following activities comprise the commercial garden landscaping services offered by leading firms of this field:
· Lawn mowing
· Garden maintenance
· Reticulation check & adjustment (weekly in summer, fortnightly in winter)
· Lawn and garden fertilizing
· Regular site inspections
· Monthly site reports
· Replanting upgrade
· Indoor plant maintenance
The firms, which provide high pressure cleaning services too, furnish site reports on a monthly basis to their customers and provide them with an assessment pertaining to the overall service commissioning process. All procedures followed while conducting the above mentioned services are eco-friendly, since all firms rendering industrial garden maintenance, landscaping services understand the need to conserve water and other associated resources. In this regard, the personnel of these organizations are trained thoroughly in executing the requisite services in an environmentally conscious way. The secret of success for these organizations lies with the attention their employees grant to the gardens they tend to. If the appropriate amount of attention is provided to the area, it can blossom like God’s own Earth or it can wither away. Therefore, anyone looking to avail commercial garden maintenance, landscaping should seek a company that is well known for providing quality services and rectifying problems, if any, at the earliest.
The Benefits of Mulching for Your Lawn
A common service offered by lawn service companies is mulching. Mulching is the best and simplest process to maintain healthy and well-protected soil in gardens. Those who garden regularly will know, not having something to protect the soil of your flower beds and vegetables from the changing weather conditions is definitely not ideal.
As an added layer of soil protection, mulch provides gardeners a perfect solution against soil erosion. Soil erodes for different reasons; both wind and water can cause soil to erode. With mulch as reinforcement against these causes, the soil you have in your garden can maintain its integrity and remain unperturbed no matter how intense the water current or strong the wind is. Aside from preventing erosion, mulching also prevents crusting and compaction in the soil.
Mulch can be made of organic and non-organic elements. Grass clippings, twigs, dead leaves, fallen branches, straw and other plant debris are some organic elements that can make up mulch. Stones, plastics and bricks, on the other hand, make up non-organic mulch. Whether organic or non-organic, mulch can significantly reduce the harsh impacts of heavy rains on soil. It is also a powerful windbreaker for soil during typhoons. With mulching as a lawn service, you can significantly control the amount of water you use in keeping your garden healthy, this is because mulch prevents soil from drying up as quickly; thus allowing you to water your garden less.
Aside from saving the cost of frequent watering during the summer, adding mulch to the topsoil of your summer flower beds and trees helps keep moisture in. When soil is regularly moist, you do not have to worry about your soil cracking under the sun. Mulch also insulates the soil as it prevents it from drying up. Soil that has a layer of mulch also maintains cooler temperatures. When soil is always moist and the temperature does not shoot up, flowers and trees are able to grow more beautifully and evenly. Likewise, mulch is also important on the topsoil during winter as it keeps soil warm. Mulch is the universal insulating blanket that can be used during the cold and warm seasons.
Also, with mulching, the growth of weeds can be prevented. Instead of resorting to chemical-based weed control solutions, opting for mulch can be the best organic way to address this common gardener’s problem. As a tip, it is best to pull all weeds first from the soil before adding that layer of mulch. A 4-inch layer of mulch can prevent weed seeds from growing, and the deeper the mulch is applied, the better it is at stopping weed germination.
Lastly, you get to do your share of saving the environment with mulching. Since mulch is composed mainly of plant debris and recycled materials such as grass clippings, the growing problems in the landfills are greatly addressed. Instead of throwing these recycled yard trimmings in the dumpster, using them again as mulch can help strike the balance in the ecosystem. Further, by recycling organic components to make mulch, the effects of chemicals on soil integrity are addressed as well.