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Mulch Landscaping Ideas

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Mulch Landscaping Ideas

Alternative Mulch Types   Rock Mulch   Rock, gravel, pebbles and other stones can be applied to landscaping features such as flowerbeds to suppress weed growth and retain moisture. Rock is economical and seldom needs replacement. It also complements modern architectural features and more minimalist landscaping. In cooler climates, heat retained by rock mulch can often extend the growing season. One small drawback of rock mulch is, because it doesn’t decompose, it doesn’t return as many nutrients to the soil as biodegradable mulches. This is easily remedied by periodically applying fertilizers, giving plants an extra nutritional boost. Rubber Mulch   Rubber mulch is made up of 100% recycled rubber, usually reclaimed from tires. It offers a few advantages over organic mulches. It insulates soil from heat and cold, allowing soil temperatures a couple of degrees higher or lower than wood mulch provides. Because rubber is non-porous, water makes its way directly to the soil underneath without absorbing into the mulch. It also reduces fungus and unwanted plant growth, acting as a very good weed barrier. It does have the same drawback as rock mulch; however, because it doesn’t decompose and return nutrients back into the soil. One other drawback is that some types of recycled rubber can leach small amounts of chemicals and minerals into the soil, which, in high concentrations, may harm some types of plants. Ultimately, rubber mulch can be an effective and sustainable alternative to wood mulch because it cuts down on the use of trees and other organic material, recycles material that would end up in a landfill and lasts significantly longer than wood mulch, making it a viable alternative. Alternative Organic Mulch   One of the biggest draws of organic mulches is they deteriorate and decompose naturally over time, returning nutrients to the soil and making it ideal for productive plant growth. A disadvantage is, because they do deteriorate, they need to be reapplied—usually each season. There are a number of organic substances outside of the typical wood that you can use as creative mulch alternatives. Leaves   Shredded or mulched leaves from deciduous trees can make great mulch for both your garden beds and your lawn. Many mower models now have a mulching feature that allows you to cut grass and simultaneously mulch the clippings so the finely shredded pieces return to the yard, adding essential nutrients while eliminating the need for bagging the clippings. You can use this same feature to mulch fallen autumn leaves and leave them on the grass, or collect them in the mower’s catcher and then gather them in yard refuse bags to use later as mulch for beds. Helpful Tip Leaves must be mulched or otherwise shredded to leave them on your lawn. Don’t let them sit on your grass during the fall and winter seasons. Thick layers of leaves that aren’t collected or removed from the lawn can hinder new growth when the weather starts to warm again. Grass Clippings   Clippings from your recent mowing can be used to mulch more than just the grass itself. They can be used for garden beds as well. They need to be prepared beforehand—you cannot dump your grass clippings on your flower beds and expect anything but problems. These clippings need to be dried out thoroughly or composted before use because a pile of freshly cut grass mats and starts to rot—creating potentially plant-damaging heat, making it less than ideal for mulching your garden beds. You can spread out piles of grass clippings to let them dry and fluff them periodically to cut down on matting. You can also mix the grass clippings with shredded leaves, other mulch or with compost to facilitate decomposition without putrefaction. Another advantage of using grass clippings for mulch is that it is cost-efficient and landfills aren’t filled with bags of clippings. Helpful Tip If you treat your lawn with chemicals, don’t use them as mulch in your flower or garden beds. Pine Needles   Pine needle mulch, also known as “pine straw,” decomposes and adds nutrients to the soil just like other organic forms of mulch. For the best results, it must be correctly paired with particular plants. Pine needles are acidic and work best with plants that like acidic soil, such as holly, gardenias, roses, chrysanthemums, tomatoes, garlic and onions. Pine needles are easy to spread on the ground and easily allow water, oxygen and other nutrients into the soil, while insulating it from the cold. To reduce their acidity, dry them out before use. One great way to gather pine needles for mulch is from your annual holiday tree. Don’t just throw it away; you can repurpose it. Cardboard and Newspaper   Cardboard and newspaper can be used in a similar fashion as landscaping fabric. They can act as a weed barrier and insulator underneath other types of mulch, or even on their own, if they are shredded. It is best to use them in conjunction with other types of mulch. By adding to commercial mulches, cardboard and newspaper can extend the coverage and save money. They are also biodegradable and deteriorate like other mulches. Because of this, cardboard and newspaper have an advantage over commercial landscaping fabric, because you won’t have to replace it from time to time like you may have to with landscaping fabric. Also, because they break down, they work with the mulch on top to return organic matter to the soil. Landscaping fabric, while good for keeping weeds out of beds, may also keep any nutritional benefits of decomposing mulch from reaching the soil. Helpful Tips There is some debate among gardening aficionados about whether colored ink from newspaper is hazardous to plants and soil. Sections of newspaper with only black ink are thought to be safe, so try to use these sections of the newspaper for your mulch. Some cardboard boxes are treated with chemicals that make them more durable. If you are unsure if your cardboard is untreated, it is best that you don’t use it in your garden. Hay/Straw   Hay or straw can be used as mulch because it can suppress weeds, retain moisture and release nutrients into the soil—though it needs to be applied thickly. It often works well when laid down first and then covered with another more aesthetically pleasing mulch, especially in front-yard flower beds where appearances are more of a priority. Straw mulch is especially useful when you need to cover large areas, such as lawns or larger gardens, because large amounts of it are relatively inexpensive and easy to spread around. Helpful Tip Do what you can to insure the straw you’re getting is as weed-free as possible or you may lose the weed-suppressing benefits of your straw mulch. How to Apply Mulch   Step 1. Water the Soil   It is very important to water your soil prior to mulching. Dry soil and mulch combined can actually prevent water from soaking into the ground. Use a garden hose and allow the water to soak into the soil 6” to 8”. Step 2. Remove Weeds   Remove existing weeds from the area you plan on mulching with a trowel, weeding tool or by hand. Be sure to get all of the plant, including the roots, out of the ground. Step 3. Add Mulch   After deciding what type of mulch you want to use, layer it on your beds about 2″ to 4″ deep. It should be thick enough to block light and keep weeds from sprouting. Be careful to keep mulch away from the crown of plants, as it could potentially kill them. Step 4. Replenish Mulch   Organic mulches break down steadily over time. Replenish when just a thin layer remains. By adding mulch, you are improving your soil and reducing the need to water and pull weeds. If you use rubber or stone mulch, just check its condition each season to see if it needs replenishing, replacement or rearrangement. That’s it! Now you know all of the alternative mulching options available to you. Related Posts & Videos Fertilize and Mulch a Garden Eco-Friendly Gardening Tips Choose the Right Mulch
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Mulch Landscaping Ideas

Making mistakes when mulching can keep your soil from reaping benefits such as conserving moisture, suppressing weeds, reducing erosion and decreasing water runoff. Landscape designers and researchers provided their best tips for making the most of mulch in your yard. Do use it as an accent. Mulching can help create healthy lawns but also has an aesthetic value. Choose colored mulch that complements the exterior colors of your home in the brick, stone, stucco and siding. For example, brownish/red pine mulch goes well with brick houses, says Jeremy Becker, owner of FireFly Landscapes in Kansas City. Using a dark mulch can contrast with flowers, improving your landscape design. Mulch also can be used to enhance your landscape theme and setting. Do look at your entire landscape. Some landscapes have big expanses of mulch with a few shrubs poking around, says Susan D. Day, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Resources & Conservation and Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech. “You want to design your landscapes so your shrubs cover all of the soil and you have complete vegetative cover. Then apply mulch to them, to control moisture,” she says. Do clean it out. If re-mulching a bed, remove some of the old mulch, Becker says. Sometimes mulch has been added to the beds three to four times, so he recommends taking out some of the mulch that has built up over time. Do tweak the thickness. When you get close to an edge, such as pavement, stepping stone or tree trunk, thin it out. “There’s no benefit in having a pile of mulch next to a tree truck. You want to taper it down,” Day says. Do try out a different mulch. There’s an array of textures, starting with options such as pine straw and shredded hardwood bark. If you’re looking for a new look and need to update your mulch, try options, such as cocoa bean shells (they smell good too!), nut hulls, salvaged palettes that are ground up and even seaweed. Don’t ignore bare soil. Researchers are finding mulching has significant environmental benefits. Having bare soil on your property will cause erosion and sediment runoff, Day says. Mulching can help control erosion. Research by Day and Virginia Tech graduate student David Mitchell found that bare soil lost about five times as much sediment as soils covered with mulch. Don’t use too little or too much mulch. About 3 inches of mulch is recommended for beds, and Becker recommends mulching twice a year. Mulching with the right amount each time will help fend off weeds and conserve moisture, which will reduce your need to irrigate. One exception is if you use pea gravel mulch or inorganic mulch. Then, you could get away with using just 2 inches, Day adds. Another factor is if you have a bed of herbaceous plants that may be too small for 3 inches of mulch. Don’t forget your trees. Place mulch around the base to protect the trunk, especially if you have younger trees, Day says. Mulch rings makes a protective area to reduce threats from other plants and keep mowers away. Don’t assume you need something underneath. Some people may want to use plastic or geotextiles, such as landscape fabric, to separate certain mulches, such as inorganic stone mulch, from the soil, Day says. There’s a belief that black plastic will keep weeds down. But adding a layer of plastic or landscape fabric could cause more water runoff and keep your garden from having a clean, streamlined look. If you use an organic mulch that will break down, like shredded hardwood bark, avoid landscape fabric because you want the mulch to be in contact with the soil to improve it, Day says. Plastic or landscape fabric could prevent water and rain from reaching the soil, and actually could increase runoff. Weeds also could grow into the landscape fabric, she adds. If the mulch shifts around or is replaced, the plastic or landscape fabric could show through. “It looks hideous when you have plastic or landscape fabric being exposed under the mulch,” Day says. Don’t use bad mulch. The biggest pitfall is getting your mulch from an unreliable source, Day says. For example, mulch could be delivered with noxious weed seeds in it because it was stockpiled next to a field of weeds. “You could be paying for that for a long time,” she says. Keep Reading

Mulch Landscaping Ideas

Mulch Landscaping Ideas
Mulch Landscaping Ideas
Mulch Landscaping Ideas
Mulch Landscaping Ideas
Mulch Landscaping Ideas

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