One of the most important things in landscaping is keeping plant material happy and healthy. With the fluctuations in climate, it is hard to provide optimum growing conditions at all times of the year, but when you apply a quality ground bark mulch you will have greater success with all of your plants.
Premium ground pine or hardwood bark mulch gives plants a leg up when the first drought hits or when there is the last blast of winter in the beginning of spring. It is the mulch that keeps a plants roots protected when the temperatures get really cold or really hot and dry. A mulched bed retains 10-25% more moisture than one that is not mulched. Mulch may be applied to plants throughout the year but the best time for application is in late winter or early spring. This application will delay soil warming and early plant growth that may lead to damage from late winter events.
Mulch also supplies plants with a slow release of natural fertilizer. The hardwood mulches break down at a rate to supply the plants with slow release fertilizer. This keeps the plants well fed throughout the year. Mulch can help reduce the amount of maintenance needed in some garden beds by reducing the amount of weed seeds that germinate.
Mulching provides so many good things for a garden why would one choose not to mulch? Premium bark mulches are not cheap and they decompose so they need to be applied annually or bi-annually to have a lasting effect on the landscape. For this reason, it may be that your budget restricts you from mulching. What is important is to spend what you can annually on mulch and try to keep all areas mulched to a depth of 2-4″.
Another reason you may not choose to mulch is that after years of applying mulch, you may have a deep build up of mulch that is starting to bury the surrounding plants. It is very important to keep the trunks and stems of all plant material free from build up of mulch. If you have a large build up of mulch, you may want to skip a year of mulching and build up your budget for the next year.
What is the difference between pine bard and hardwood bark mulch?
Pine bark mulch- Is lighter in color than hardwood mulch. It keeps its color longer and decomposes at a nice rate so it does not build up in landscape beds. It is more prone to washing so it would not be the best choice for large steep banks.
Hardwood bark mulch- Is darker in color than pine bark mulch. It is less prone to washing because it is heavier in density and will be better suited for steep banks. It decomposes a little slower than pine bark mulch but does slowly add nutrients to the soil.
What do we do?
We mulch most of our beds annually with double ground pine bark mulch. We really like the color retention and the depth it adds to our gardens. We do use hardwood when requested and it works but it does not give the fresh and long-lasting color like the pine; however, it does offer the same results as the pine. The both are similar in cost but you need to be sure you are getting mulch from a quality source that uses only bark with no other materials added.