Mulch, the Answer to Many Gardening Problems
Mulch Mulch Everywhere!
Just what exactly is mulch? Mulch is usually shredded plant material usually but not limited to tree bark and wood chips and shrubbery. Many cities offer this for minimum or no cost to city residents. It is a by product of their collection of bulk tree and shrubbery at curb side. I have actually heard of people chasing down tree removal trucks to get their shredded offerings. So what does this magic topping do for you?
In layers 6-8 inches thick it insulates the ground to keep it a bit warmer in the winter and a bit cooler in during the dog days of summer. This is really good for your plants root systems.
It keeps weeds out as the seeds can't get to the earth to germinate. They end up germinating on the mulch and are quickly denied the nutrients and water in the soil below and they shrivel and die.
It breaks down to compost and feeds and enriches the soil around your plants.
Mulch keeps water from evaporating into thin air.
Lastly it gives your flower beds that finished look. Yes, and you thought that was all it did.
Not bad for a bunch of wood chips. Keep in mind a couple of things though:
Mulch needs to be added to once or twice (spring and fall is best) a year at a rate of about 2 inches per year as it does break down into compost.
If you like a certain color of mulch you can keep your bill down by using the city for the bottom 4-6 inches and just use a layer of the commercial stuff.
In theory it is possible to transfer diseased plant tissue to your yard through the cities stockpiles but I have never heard of this actually happening. You may want to get in touch with your local extension office to get their opinion on this but I have used it for years with no ill effects.
People have asked about the shredded rubber mulches that are permanent or close to it. I have to go though all of the benefits one by one and remember it doesn't compost, so that cuts out that benefit. I gets really hot in the summer keeping allowing the soil temperature to rise. Probably because of the heat transfer I would say that it doesn't do much to keep the water in. Lastly at least here in the hot Texas sun it makes your yard smell like an old tire. Imagine that!