It’s March! That means spring days start to appear and people begin to dust off their garden tools and bikes. The first task many dive into is mulching garden beds. There are a lot of pros to mulching – keeping your soil moisture high, suppressing weeds and protecting sensitive plants from temperature extremes. There are, however, cons involved with mulching as well. If you mulch too thick, you might choke out desired plants and create areas for disease all while wasting time, money and resources.
Many places advise putting three inches of mulch down every spring; some say to apply more in fall as well. This is a lot of mulch! Three inches is a good target to shoot for, but keep in mind that not all of the mulch will decompose in a year, so the amount you need to apply will vary. Many times, a generous topdressing will accomplish what you are looking for.
At the Cultural Trail, my ultimate goal is to have as much plant coverage as possible, so I mulch very light (1-2” deep). This means that I have to monitor weeds more closely. However, over time it has also led to plants doubling and tripling in size, from less constrictive mulch and the increase in size shades out more weeds, so in effect we are accomplishing the same goals just with green leafed plants and not shredded trees. This concept is sometimes referred to as green mulching and is starting to become mainstream as it is greener, cheaper and lower maintenance.
A few quick tips I have found to make the mulching process easier:
- Use pitchforks, preferably a 10-tine pitchfork, instead of shovels.
- Step out your square footage when trying to guess how much to buy.
- Pay for bulk delivery, rather than buying bags of mulch.
- If possible, use a two-wheeled wheelbarrow. They are more stable and are easier on my arms and back.
Here’s to a great 2022 growing season!
-Ethan Hochstein, Director of Horticulture and Landscape