Advantages of Mulching
Mulch beds can provide a unifying effect in the landscape. The advantages of using organic mulch to blanket soil around trees, shrubs, and perennial plants are many: Mulch moderates soil temperature and makes a more favorable environment for roots, insulating the soil in extreme temperatures.
Beyond all that, mulch dresses up your garden, giving it a more finished look and adding a facelift to your landscape.
Types of Mulch
Several bark and wood mulches are available--bark nuggets, mini-nuggets, hardwood mulch, and shredded mulch. Some come in bags, some come in bulk. A chief advantage of these mulches compared with other organic mulches is that they remain attractive and functional for a couple of years. That is why gardeners mulching around trees, shrubs, and other long-lived plants are wise to choose a long-lasting mulch.
Choosing a mulch color
Choosing a mulch texture
The material used for mulching is perhaps less important than the simple fact that the plants are mulched. Most coarse materials are satisfactory. Avoid materials such as sawdust, which packs tightly, and those too unsightly in the landscape.
Mulching Your Plants
Application is easy. Outline the edge of beds by using a flat spade shovel. Apply mulch evenly to beds and trees using a flat shovel or pitchfork, and finish with a landscape rake for a smooth appearance.
Whatever the type of plant, it's rarely advised to mulch more deeply than 6 inches. Mulch layers thicker than that may reduce air circulation in the soil, which will retard plant growth. To avoid encouraging stem rot disease, use a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch around the soft-stemmed annuals and perennials. Plastic is not recommended laying under mulch because the plastic will now allow the soil to breathe, or allow water to exchange.
Also, don't pile mulch around the main stem of a plant where it enters the soil. The added moisture and insect haven that results could damage the plant you are trying to help- Spread the mulch so that it covers the drip line of your plant.
Bulbs. Among garden bulbs, lilies benefit more from mulching than any other group. Most other bulbs are sufficiently winter hardy but benefit from mulching for other reasons. Small, shallow-planted bulbs can be heaved out of the soil by alternate freezing and thawing. This effect can be largely prevented by light mulching. Mulches generally improve the appearance of flowering bulbs growing in a bed of otherwise barren soil, offering a background for viewing the new spring growth.
Evergreens. Plants that most need mulching are evergreen shrubs and young evergreen trees, especially the broad-leaved types. Mulches help prevent winter drying of these plants. Winter drying causes foliage to become scorched and discolored over winter and may cause the plant to die. Drying develops when foliage loses moisture faster than it can, be taken up by the roots from a dry or frozen soil.
Perennials. Most garden perennials benefit from summer mulches for preserving soil moisture and for reducing soil temperature. Perennials that most often need winter protection in New York include baby's breath, bellflower, chrysanthemums, delphinium, hardy gloxinia, hypericum, linum, lupine, oriental poppy, Stokes' aster, thrift and thyme.
Roses. Experienced rose growers recognize the improvement in vigor and appearance of roses as a result of summer mulching. The mulch layer should be about two inches deep and fairly coarse material such as unfinished compost, aged sawdust, bark, milled wood fiber or tobacco stems.
Trees and shrubs
Trees and shrubs that gain most from mulching are new plantings, ones with shallow roots, and ones that suffer from extended drought or are otherwise damaged by high soil temperatures. All trees and shrubs should be mulched at planting time to aid them in becoming established. Flowering dogwood and sugar maples are examples of plants whose leaves scorch easily in dry weather. Some leaves of birches, willow and tulip trees often yellow and drop during extended drought.
Around older plants with thick bark, don't crowd mulch around their bases. Most won't succumb to stem rot as quickly as soft stemmed perennials, but it can happen just the same. A property mulched area around the base of the trees and shrubs makes mowing easier and helps prevent mower damage to the plant.
Plants that should almost always be mulched are azalea, boxwood, Chinese and Japanese hollies, Japanese andromeda and rhododendron. Exotic evergreens and those planted north of their best zone of adaptation should be kept well mulched year-round.