Mulching is an essential practice in gardening that plays a fundamental role in promoting healthy plant growth and boosting higher yields. Mulch helps to reduce loss of moisture from the soil through evaporation thus enabling soil water retention. The soil can experience considerably cooler temperatures arising from the presence of mulch especially during the hot summer months. Mulch also helps in minimizing the growth of weeds. It is important that you understand how mulching should be done and take note of the mistakes to avoid otherwise your mulching may end up doing more unintended harm than good.
The amount of mulch used is a critical factor in success of mulching. If you heap too much of mulch onto the soil surface around the plants, it is likely to cause feeder roots to divert to the surface which will stress the plants during adverse weather conditions. Too much mulch can cause suffocation of the plant as it hinders oxygen from getting to the plants. The amount of mulch used should not be so little that it fails to benefit the plants. The standard recommended amount of mulch applied should not exceed 3 inches.
Improper Placing of Mulch
Avoid packing mulch right next to the stems or trunks. Space has to be allowed around the base of the plants so that breathing is enabled without hindrances. A common practice when mulching trees is to pile up the mulch at the base of the tree also known as volcano mulching because the tree trunk sticks out of a mound of mulch. This practice traps moisture against the tree bark and encourages bacterial and fungal diseases, even death of the tree. Arrange the mulch around the tree base so that it resembles a bagel, leaving some space for breathing.
Certain types of mulch like green horticultural waste that has not aged adequately and not been well screened are not very beneficial to use. This is because they compete with the plants for valuable soil nitrogen. Also, the microbial activity associated with such types of green mulch is similar to that of the regular plants which is not ideal for the landscape. Wood chips are also not recommended although many people seem to favor them as mulch. This is because when wood begins to decompose it uses up a lot of the valuable soil nitrogen and deprives your plants of nitrogen in the process. If using wood chips, you would have to make sure the wood has been treated otherwise you may soon be dealing with a problem of termites since termites feed on wood.
Source of Mulch
You need to be aware of the source of your mulch before you apply it. Confirm with your supplier as to where the mulch originated and what it contains. Some mulch may contain dangerous materials and elements such as metals, plastics, toxic substances and other harmful contaminates. Make sure you obtain mulch that is certified as safe and reliable from your supplier.