Asking the Question - To mulch or not to mulch

TO MULCH OR NOT TO MULCH - By all means - Mulch!

 Here is a list of reasons why mulching might be right for you.

 Decorative – adds color

  • Keeps weeds down by inhibiting seeds from propagating
  • Maintains moisture in the soil by decreasing evaporation.
  • Regulates temperature of soil - In summer it keeps roots cool during hot dry weather, In winter it protects roots from fluctuating freezing temperatures
  • Keeps soils loose and manageable by impeding compaction of soil due to heavy rain fall.
  • Adds organic material to your soil as it breaks down.

A few tips to keep in mind before you mulch your garden or landscape:

 Weed control - To effectively control weeds, you must clear the area of weeds before mulching – don’t just cover them up thinking they will die off, remove any unwanted root systems before mulching. After mulching, any weeds that do pop up should be easier to pull as the soil should remain loose. Then just freshen up are to the initial thickness each year after to maintain thickness.

Planting a New Garden - Sun can reflect heat from newly mulched ground into the air. This heated air can fry newly planted plants. If you are doing a NEW fairly large area use more drought resistant plants that have a higher tolerance to heat and sun to help shade other less tolerant plants while they become established.

Mulching around Trees - Keep mulch 4” out and away from tree trunks, tree trunks need to be kept dry and aerated.

To help you decide:

 Your reasons for mulching can vary as much as the types of mulch materials available . Not all mulches are wood and even the wood mulches can vary. We have compiled a list of common mulching materials along with some of their Pro’s and Con’s for each type, a visual of what it looks like and a example of uses. 

CEDAR MULCH:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Generally recovered from raw cedar materials – usually shredded bark of the cedar trees. Pefferlaw distributes Bardobec Brand Cedar Mulches to retailers across Ontario. Check out our where to buy (link) for a garden centre near you.

Slow to breakdown – 5 to 7 years. Readily available at most stores. Organic Impedes weed growth. Impedes moisture loss

Due to slow breakdown, it is not as effective in returning nutrients to the soil as some other mulch. Will impede natural reseeding of desirable plants.

Use 3” thick for initial use after clearing out weeds and roots of unwanted plants. Should be added to every year or two to maintain thickness. Use in: General Flower Gardens AND Perennial Flower Gardens.

COLORED CEDAR MULCH:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Same as Natural Cedar with added color . Generally colour mulch is dyed with safe organic dyes such as iron oxide. Check product labels for more information. Pefferlaw distributes Bardobec Brand Cedar Mulches to retailers across Ontario. Check out our where to buy (link) for a garden centre near you.

Same as Natural Cedar with the addition of color and accent to your garden. Readily available at most stores. Impedes weed growth. Impedes moisture loss

 

Same as Natural Cedar. Some mulch brands can fade quickly.

Use as you would Natural Cedar. Will add color and contrast, some points to consider: Red mulch will highlight pine and evergreens, and an interesting contrasting background for yellow flowers. Black Mulch accentuates greenage, and contrast well with blue and purple flowers. Brown Mulch can give the appearance of dark healthy soil.

WOOD CHIP MULCH:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Unless other wise indicated as Cedar these chips are generally made for reclaimed lumber and/or forest products, which can include spruce and pine. Texture and size will vary, check product labels for more information. Our Pefferlaw brand Colour Wood chips are made from reclaimed forest products that contain no chemical additives.

Slow to breakdown. Readily available at most stores. Impedes weed growth. Impedes moisture loss.

 

If using near a vegetable garden, you will want to ensure the producer of the product did not use a treated wood source, read the label. Will impede natural re-seeding of desirable plants.

Great for pathways, and play areas.

 

PINE MULCH:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

A by product of paper and lumber industry.

Adds natural color. Organic. Long lasting Impedes weed growth. Impedes moisture loss

Will impede natural reseeding of desirable plants.

Use in the same way as Cedar Mulch (see above). Use in Annual / Perennial Gardens.

PINE NUGGETS:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Pefferlaw distributes Browning Pine nuggets to our retailers

Large pieces– allows air to circulate and ground to breath. Organic. Slow to break down. Impedes weed growth. Impedes moisture loss

May impede natural reseeding if done thickly. Can wash/ float away in heavy rain.

Use in the same way as Cedar Mulch (see above). Apply 3”-5” deep

 

HEMLOCK MULCH:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

A by product of the hemlock forestry industry.

Unique Color Retains its Natural Color (does not fade). Pleasant distinct odour. Impedes weed growth and moisture loss. Slow to breakdown

Higher cost. Not always readily available. Will impede natural reseeding of desirable plants.

Apply 3” thick as you would for Cedar Mulch (see above).

 

COCOA SHELL MULCH:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

The Cocoa shell is a by-product of Cocoa processing.

Pleasant aroma. Impedes weed growth. Impedes moisture loss. Light weight.

Can be poisonous to pets (dogs) if ingested. Light, easily wind swept. Molds easily if used too thick.

Apply no thicker than 2” Best used in sheltered areas protected from wind.

NEWSPAPER

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Recycled

Easily obtainable Functional in vegetable garden (caution – you will want to use paper that is printed with vegetable/soy based ink). Impedes weed growth and moisture loss

Can starve ground of air if used to thickly. Unattractive

 

Best used in combination with other mulches, place 2 to 4 sheets down and cover with another mulch to stop sheets from blowing away.

 

STRAW:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Harvested farm product

Easily obtainable

 

Can contain weed seeds so use caution

6” deep for winter protection or lay it between rows to keep weeds down

GRASS CUTTINGS:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

From your lawn

Easily obtainable. Adds nutrients to soil as it decomposes. Impedes weed growth and moisture loss. Breaks down, adds nutrients

Can contain weed seeds- caution. Can compact and become slimy if used to thick. Can contain unwanted lawn treatments.

Apply 1” deep. Best used for pathways or between rows of vegetable gardens.

COMPOST:

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

The result of microbial decomposition of organic material such as hay, vegetable matter and manures.

Adds nutrients to the soil which feeds and attracts beneficial microbes and worms. Turn into soils at end of season adding to its richness and results in a balanced nutrient rich soil. Allows for natural re-seeding of desired plants . Attractive Organic. Easily obtainable. Impedes weed growth and moisture loss

Breaks down quickly. May contain weed seeds

 

Apply 2 to 3” on vegetable or flower gardens, can also be used in conjunction with wood mulch.

 

FALL LEAVES

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Fall harvest

Looks natural. Easily obtained if collected in fall. Impedes weed growth and moisture loss. Leaf Mold or composted leaves attract beneficial worms and micro-organisms

Can starve ground of air if used to thickly. Unattractive. Will require spring clean up if used solely for winter protection. May contain weed seeds

Pile onto your garden after the winter freeze to help insulate roots and protect from fluctuating temperatures.

ROCK AND/OR STONE

Description

Pro’s

Con’s

How to use

Large variety of types, sizes and shapes that range from natural multi-colour river rocks and pea gravel to cut gravel of various colours (white marble, red brick ect). Pefferlaw provides a large variety of Deco Stone brand aggregates - Check out our where to buy (link) section of the web site to contact a retailer near you.

Reflects heat/Shades earth. Impedes moisture loss. Hardy,withstands time. Large selection – size and color. Can allow for natural reseeding of plants.

 

 

Doesn’t improve soil. Migrates down through soil in time. Retains less water than wood mulches. Weeds can also reseed.

 

Use in landscapes where you don’t plan to re dig.

 

 

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