I recently added a layer of Yard Debris Compost mulch to my garden beds with the help of two energetic young men – I surely could not have done the job without them. My strategy in applying mulch is to first give all the beds a good weeding, followed by a healthy soaking of the soil. Once those two tasks were complete, we spread a one to two inch thick layer of this dark, crumbly, grayish-black mulch over all the empty spaces, being careful not to allow it to pile up high near the crown of any plant (the crown being the place where roots and main stem meet). Most woody plants do not like to be buried too deep.
Now, over the next few years, this compost mulch will help reduce weed growth, the soil will retain moisture during the hot and dry days of summer and healthful nutrients will slowly release into the soil. In a few years when most of this mulch has decomposed further, I’ll lightly fork it into the top layer of soil and apply new mulch. The organic matter tends to keep the soil acidic (which conifers love), adds some moisture retentive qualities to the soil, increases soil health by working to make nutrients readily available to plant roots – plus it looks great!
The dark color of the Yard Debris Compost that I purchased from my local independent garden center really sets off the colors of all my plants. The yellows and golds in my garden like, Picea orientalis ‘Tom Thumb’ and Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Verdoni’ seem brighter while the greens of my Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’ and Pinus mugo ‘Sherwood Compact’ appear richer and darker, all the blues seem to pop out like they haven’t in years – even my wife’s flowers seem more showy with this dark colored mulch. I really do prefer it to the bright reddish orange color of our locally available ground bark.
If you are planning to invest in mulch for your garden this year, it is important to remember that more is not better. It is possible to apply too much mulch which can have an adverse effect on your plants. If the mulch is applied too thick, it can actually prevent a summer rainfall from getting down into the soil where the roots can use it. Plus, plants need a gaseous exchange and too much mulch can prevent the roots from being able to breathe. A two inch average is a good goal, being careful not to apply your mulch thicker than three to four inches is very important.
Now, I do believe it is time for a freshly brewed iced tea and a stroll through my newly mulched garden – what a difference a little hard work can make!