The single best thing you can do for a landscaped site of any size, any age, any soil type is to cover your soil in coarse wood chip mulch. And keep it covered! Why?
Builds healthy soil. Healthy soil requires less fertilizer, pesticides and water. Less inputs, reallocate labor to other tasks.
Conserves moisture. Here in San Diego, we are lucky to get 10″ of rain a year. The rest is supplemental, expensive, travels hundreds of miles to your site.
Inhibits weed growth. Less labor hand pulling, spraying and applying chemicals, less competition for desired plants.
Improves soil structure. Heavy, clay soil to structureless, coarse soils are transformed over time with the organic activity under a layer of mulch covered soil. Better soil structure improves plant health.
Erosion control. Covered soil does not blow away or move as readily with water. Mulch acts as a buffer for water droplets to disperse.
Reduce compaction. As a buffer layer to protect the soil pore spaces from compressing. Pore spaces are where air and water should be stored for plant use.
Aesthetics. It just plain looks good. Landscape mulch is unifying and shows you care about your site. A fresh layer of mulch speaks volumes.
What type of mulch should I use?
Coarse woody mulch, like arborist’s chips, are the best type of mulch. The coarse texture, mixed with shredded greens, provides ample space for air and water to flow to the root zone of plants and trees. Fine mulches tend to mat into an impermeable layer. Rocks and gravel just cover the soil and provide little horticultural benefit. Plus, arborist’s wood chips are a responsible way to recycle a local product. Make friends with your local arborist. Have a staging location on each job site for them to dump a supply. Use it consistently. Chips from trees with potential borer infestations, such as ISHB and GSOB, should be 1″ or less in size. Read here for more on this topic. https://research.libraries.wsu.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/2376/5262/FS160E.pdf?sequence=2
How do I apply mulch?
Apply a 3″-4″ layer on top of soil. Keep mulch from bunching up around the base of plants (a few inches away) and trunks of trees (6″ away). It’s best to mulch trees out beyond their drip line.
How to mulch around trees
If trees are in turf, remove it. Yes, you heard me. Create beautiful mulched tree wells which won’t require mowing over, compacting root zones or weed whacking trunks. Stage mulch in large piles for ease of distribution with a wheelbarrow. It’s best to apply mulch to moist soil to jump start the organic flora and fauna of the soil. Let them work on transforming your soil structure, cycle nutrients and create a moisture reservoir for roots. If leaf accumulation requires periodic cleanup in mulched areas, using the leaf blower, on dry leaves, on low speed, at an angle as horizontal to the ground as possible removes leaves and not mulch. It is possible with skill and practice. Keep that mulch in place!
I am a horticulturist and landscape contractor. Landscapes not only provide first impressions for a property, but offer sustainable benefits to a community and bring lasting asset value to sites. Botanicon helps clients achieve their landscape and irrigation goals by offering third party expertise, consulting, quality assurance and landscape vendor management services.