Winter mulches are used primarily as insulation for woody plants, laid down in late fall to keep the soil evenly cool throughout the winter. Straw, shredded leaves, and pine needles are all effective winter mulches.
Summer or growing mulches are normally applied after the soil begins to warm in the spring. The primary roles of summer mulches are to warm the soil, reduce weed growth, and retain soil moisture.
# Black plastic and straw are commonly used in vegetable gardens or small fruit plantings.
# Wood chips, bark chunks, and pine needles are appropriate mulches for shrub beds or around trees.
# Fine mulches, such as bark granules, wood shavings, cocoa shells, and buckwheat hulls, are attractive when used in annual or perennial beds.
# Fine gravel or crushed stone mulches look most natural when used in rock gardens.
People often renew wood chip mulches each year by adding an additional 3 to 4 inches of chips.
This over-mulching not only wastes mulch but can suffocate the roots of shallow-rooted species and cause cankers to develop around the bases of susceptible trees and shrubs. A better practice is to renew mulches every 2 to 3 years and churn up the existing mulch before adding a light renewal layer.
12/1/2013, 6:26 pm
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