Mulch your way to prettier, healthier plantings. Learn which type of mulch to use, when to use it and where to use it.
One of gardening’s secret weapons is mulch. It’s not a glamorous starlet that steals the spotlight, but its performance can make or break a landscape design. Whether you’re grooming a fabulous front yard or raising your family’s favorite veggies in the backyard, mulch can make each planting area healthy, earth-friendly and beautiful.
Why Use Mulch
- It suppresses weeds and makes weeds that do sprout easier to pull.
- It slows water evaporation from soil, so you don’t have to water as often.
- It insulates soil against temperature extremes. This protects shallow-rooted plants in cold regions and coddles crops as summer sizzles.
- It prevents soil compaction during downpours. Loose, uncompacted soil yields happy, healthy plant roots.
- It slows storm water runoff and helps reduce soil erosion. Less runoff means planting beds are absorbing more rain.
- It prevents disease organisms from splashing from soil to plant leaves, which reduces disease outbreaks.
- It gives planting beds a polished look, enhancing even the most basic landscape design.
When to Mulch Landscaping
How to Mulch Landscaping
Apply a 2- to 3-inch-thick mulch layer. If you’re gardening in slow-draining soil, use a thinner layer (1 to 2 inches); for fast-draining soils like sand, aim for 4 inches. A too-thick layer can lead to plant rot, diseases, pests and rodents.
Extend mulch beyond the plant’s drip line — the point where the outermost edge of leaves occurs. To prevent rot, pull mulch back 2 to 4 inches from perennial crowns, shrub stems and tree trunks.
Water mulch after application. This keeps dry mulch from absorbing soil moisture (and stealing it from plant roots). Second, it helps anchor lightweight mulches easily carried by wind.
Find the Right Mulch
- doesn’t compact
- decomposes relatively slowly
- is water- and air-permeable
- is fire-resistant