Spring has sprung! (We can tell because we can’t stop sneezing.) After a not-so-wonderful winter, we’re all excited to get back outside and make our landscaping beautiful again.
With yard beautification comes so many choices: bushes or flowers? Annuals or perennials? Mulch or no mulch? If you’re not sure about your mulch needs and desires, we can help!
Why Use Mulch?
Many people prefer using some kind of mulch to help suppress weeds, retain soil moisture, keep the soil cool, improve the soil’s fertility and, of course, to make their garden bed look attractive.
But not all mulch is created equal and there are many to choose from. Keep reading to learn about different mulch options and which might be best for you.
Organic vs. Inorganic
Mulch falls into two categories: organic and inorganic. Organic mulch is made of materials that decompose over time. It can help improve soil structure, fertility, aeration and drainage as it decomposes.
Inorganic mulch is made of materials that don’t decompose including rocks. The advantages of using inorganic mulch include weed control, having an appealing look and warming the soil during early spring.
Double Shredded Hardwood: The gold standard
Double shredded, hardwood bark mulches are the most popular in Northern Virginia. They are typically aged, dried and then sometimes dyed. This type of mulch works best around trees, shrubs and garden beds that won’t be subjected to a lot of digging. Because larger pieces decompose slowly, some prefer to use shredded bark (over nuggets or chips) to help retain moisture better and adds nutrients to the soil.
Other organic options do exist for mulching to add nutrients or suppress weeds but they don’t offer a clean, finished look for residential and commercial landscapes. These options include straw (good for vegetable gardens), grass clippings (also good for gardens), shredded leaves, compost or composted manure, and newspaper (for suppressing weeds or warming soil early).
In other parts of the country pine needle mulch or cocoa mulch are popular but these aren’t readily available in Virginia and are too light for our soaking rains and gusting winds.
River Rock: The best of inorganic mulch
From pea gravel to river rocks, stones and gravel provide a nice aesthetic. They works well in areas that require good drainage or with plants that like a little more heat, such as rain gardens and Mediterranean herb gardens. Stones provide that additional warmth as they absorb the heat during the day and release it at night, which can help jump-start perennial plantings in the spring.
River rock is favored by those looking for a more contemporary look in their landscapes. The rocks come in various sizes and colors to enhance or blend with your architecture. River rocks can also be used in conjunction with shredded mulch to distinguish areas or to cover areas that get more foot traffic or drainage.
Of course there are lots of inorganic options too. These include landscape fabric or plastic and rubber mulch (made from recycled tires). These man made products aren’t recommended for natural looking beds and long-term plant health.
Make Your Yard Shine with Epling
Mulch not only serves many practical purposes in your gardens and landscaping, but it can also revive beds and add a finishing touch. If you’re looking for a landscaping partner who can help you with mulch and more, contact Epling today and take advantage of our expert services.