Creative Concepts Landscape has always received requests to install mulch, however with the increased drought restrictions in California, and lawns being removed and replaced with low water use planter beds, mulch is enjoying an increase in popularity.
Adding mulch over bare areas of soil is singularly one of the best things you can do for your property. In the natural world, trees and large shrubs continually drop their leaves, branches, and bark. This creates a natural covering over the soil, blocking sunlight from germinating many of the seeds that are ever present in the ground.
When we remove this natural mulch or have a landscape that does not create this natural mulch, we invite other plants (weeds) to take up the ecological niche we have opened up by providing an area of bare soil.
This, in part, is why landscape mulch exists. By applying a thick layer of mulch, we prevent the sunlight from reaching the topsoil layer, thus preventing weed seeds from receiving enough warm sunlight to begin their process of germination and growth.
A healthy layer of mulch adds aesthetic appeal and numerous landscape benefits, including weed reduction in your planters.
Types of Mulch
Often people think of mulch as just being wood chips. This is often the case, however there are many other materials that can be used as mulch. Mulch is basically any material applied to the surface of soil.
Organic wood mulch: The organic in this title means this is a carbon-based compound that will decompose over time. It is made from the shavings and cuttings of trees and woody plants. There are multiple subcategories of wood mulch, including:
- Shredded redwood bark: Often called ‘gorilla hair,’ this mulch clings well to slopes.
- Large bark mulch: This much is made from larger pieces of wood bark. It decomposes slower than many other types of mulch but tends to be more expensive.
- Forest floor mulch: This is the standard organic mulch used. It is made from small to medium pieces of bark and wood, giving a more natural aesthetic. It decomposes at a medium rate, adding composed to the soil.
Forest floor mulch – the standard of mulches
- Colored mulch: This is wood bark mulch that has been painted. In perhaps a highly stylized garden this can be appropriate, but usually it just looks gaudy.
- Gravel: This loose collection of small rocks is also considered mulch, however it’s not organic. It breaks down very slowly, so it does not need to be replenished nearly as often. There are many different sizes and colors of gravel, so it can fit many different aesthetics, however it tends to imply a desert, or low water, theme.
Gravel and rock mulch for a contemporary aesthetic
- Grass clippings & shredded leaves: These materials compost very quickly, adding nutrients into the soil. They can be good for vegetable planter beds, however, do not apply them in a thick layer, as they tend to mat and trap moisture for too long, leading to pathogen growth.
- Rubber mulch: Rubber mulch is made from pieces of rubber. It decomposes very slowly and can be a good, spongy material in certain areas of playgrounds, however it is not suitable for garden landscapes. The rubber pieces migrate into the street and eventually make their way into the sewer system. There is evidence that micro and molecular bits of rubber enter the soil, adding toxicity.
Okay for some playgrounds, but for the garden landscape skip the rubber mulch.
- Natural mulch: Natural mulch is simply letting the process of leaf drop occur without removing the leaves and small sticks. Many people feel this looks untidy, however in many cases (notably around coast live oak trees) this is the best option for the health of the soil, weed control, and your budget.
Natural leaf drop mulch composting into the soil
Mulch has many additional benefits. It covers drip lines, helping to protect them. It slowly decomposes, adding rich, organic material to the soil which increases its nutrient content. And mulch adds aesthetic appeal to your property with its eye pleasing texture and earthy color.
And finally, back to the drought and landscape water restrictions. Mulch helps soil retain its moisture, thus reducing the amount of irrigation needed to water your plants.
As the temperature warms up during late spring and summer, this will play a beneficial roll in not only your landscape, but also your budget, lowering water used and water bills.
Creative Concepts Landscape will happily do the labor and time intensive work of bringing mulch to your property and properly applying it throughout your planters. Contact us today to find out more.
By Daniel Williams
Client Laison for Creative Concepts Landscape