Discovering the Magic of Mulch

Written by Greenwise Team
Published on April 12, 2019
Benefits of mulch

What Is Mulch and Why Do I Need it in My Garden?

I don’t know about you, but my garden goes from dowdy to dressed for Saturday night after I install mulch. An instant makeover. Basically, mulch looks amazing and naturally suppresses weeds while preventing soil and nutrient erosion. Typically, you add mulch to the soil in your garden in the spring and fall. We are fans of mulch because we’ve seen how it can dramatically improve the soil’s composition, thereby helping your plants, shrubs, and trees flourish. Mulching your gardens is both beautiful and functional. It increases the aesthetic value of your property, prevents weeds from taking over, stabilizes and insulates the soil, and adds important nutrients back to your garden, promoting healthier, more beautiful flowers. Mulch is especially effective for helping to stabilize new plants. You can mulch around trees and shrubs, and walkways.

Six Immediate Benefits of Mulch

Beautiful and functional, mulch is extremely versatile and serves a crucial role in maintaining a healthy garden.
  • Increases the aesthetic value of your property
  • Suppresses weeds
  • Retains moisture
  • Stabilizes the soil
  • Adds organic matter to the soil
  • Minimizes the frigid temperatures over the winter
When you are getting your property ready for the growing season in spring, don’t forget the mulch. Many homeowners like to include mulch as part of their spring preparation because it is a simple, effective way to prevent weeds and it looks great!

Where Should I Get My Mulch?

Where you get your mulch matters. The magic of mulch starts in its selection. We typically select and install premium, shredded hardwood mulch, unless we determine your garden would benefit from a different type, such as pine fines or leaf. We choose mulch that won’t damage delicate perennials or pull naturally occurring nitrogen away from your plants. Big box stores, like Lowes or Home Depot, might have great deals on mulch, but knowing where your mulch comes from matters. Greenwise uses locally sourced mulch. That means it’s more sustainable, decreases your carbon footprint, and vastly reduces the spread of disease. For example, mulch from the big box stores could potentially be from diseased trees in South Carolina. That means you are introducing diseases from across state lines to your garden. And no one wants that.

What Does Good Mulch Look Like?

The finer and darker the mulch, the better. The finer the grind, the more decomposed it is and returns more nutrition to the landscape. Greenwise uses triple ground hardwood. The more a mulch is grounded, the more it’s like a beautiful, rich compost for your garden. Through grounding, mulch gets aged like light compost. Greenwise also uses leaf mulch. Just like it sounds, leaf mulch is made up of leaf debris and branches. Leaves contain important nutrients, and when we put them back into the garden as mulch, they complete the nutrition cycle. Leaves are packed with trace minerals that trees draw up from deep in the soil. When added to your garden, leaves feed earthworms and beneficial microbes. They lighten heavy soils and help sandy soils retain moisture (especially important for our properties near the lake). Plus, leaf mulch doesn’t fade in color, so its rich brown/black color keeps your garden looking fresh. While leaf mulch insulates and helps to suppress weeds like hardwood, it breaks down faster, enriching the soil faster. And, because of its ability to break down quickly, it can be used next to perennials and small plants. Hardwood mulch is best around woody plants, such as shrubs and trees. Once we select the appropriate mulch for your garden, we prepare your garden beds by edging and removing weeds. Then, we carefully dress your garden beds in a two-inch layer of finely ground, locally sourced, aged, dark brown, hardwood, or leaf mulch.

What Are the Different Types of Mulch?

Triple ground, premium hardwood mulch is our standard for garden beds and most projects. It is aged and partially composted to ensure readily available nutrients. This rich, chocolate brown mulch makes every garden look complete. Leaf mulch is the best choice when choosing a mulch for vegetable beds or to improve the quality of the soil. Leaf mulch breaks down quickly, increases soil fertility, and draws worms and other beneficial organisms to your garden. Playground mulch is specifically screened for size and consistency to produce a more durable, woody product ideal for pathways and play areas.

How Much Mulch Do I Need?

Less is more when it comes to mulch, so you want to avoid over-applying it. A two-inch layer is enough to support a healthy garden and should be applied annually every spring or fall. If you have never mulched before, Greenwise recommends 2” of mulch. Over mulching is bad and can suppress plant material. If you have mulched in the past season, you can simply refresh your mulch by adding an inch or two. Be careful not to mulch excessively. Volcano mulching around shrubs and tree trunks can lead to basal decay and encircling roots. When you install mulch, consider adding composts and garden fertilizers, which can maximize the mulch’s effectiveness.

Did You Know There’s a Right and a Wrong Way to Mulch Around Trees?

A ring of mulch right out to the drip line is better for a tree than ground cover or even grass, which compete for moisture and nutrients. Never mulch against the trunk, where it can harm the bark and invite decline. If you have mulch or ground cover around a tree, cut it back to 6-12” away from the trunk. Rodents love to dig in and gnaw on bark, especially in winter. Questions? We are here to help. Please call us at 847.866.1930 or visit our website.