Alfred Lord Tennyson may have thought that “In the Spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” but we all know it’s really mulch, right?! Spring is an excellent time to mulch, and it offers a lot of bang for your landscaping buck! Here are a few miscellaneous must-knows:
Hardwood mulch vs. Pine Needles (AKA pine straw)
- Hardwood mulch is alkaline; Pine Needles are acidic. You may need to amend soil to counteract this if your plants have a strong preference.
- Pine Needles are less expensive and go further. However, they do biodegrade more quickly, and therefore need to be replenished more frequently, which offsets original savings.
- Dry pine needles can be a fire hazard.
- Pine needles are quicker to spread than hardwood mulch. Although, spreading mulch is excellent exercise!
- Both fade in color, but shredded mulch is available in dyed colors that will retain their color longer.
- Pine needles blow out of place more easily than mulch, and you may find yourself raking it back into place from time to time.
- Both provide protection against weather and moisture loss, although hardwood mulch seems to outperform pine needles in preventing weeds.
- Both can contain fungus, but it seems more prevalent in hardwood mulches than pine needles.
- Pine needles have a reputation for attracting snakes and chiggers.
- Sometimes, pine straw bales contain actual trash (beer or soda cans, wrappers, etc.). Be sure to use a reputable source for your pine needles to avoid this.
Other kinds of mulch:
- Rocks or gravel can be used as mulch. The initial investment is larger, but they last much longer and do not need replenishment, as they do not biodegrade. Because the pieces are weightier, they don’t blow or float away. Minor touch-ups every few years are sufficient.
- Rubber mulch is often used in playgrounds to soften the blow from falls and jumps. It is heavy, does not biodegrade and is therefore long-lasting. It can often have an odor that lasts after installation. It is expensive.
- Pine bark nuggets are larger pieces than double or triple shredded hardwood and can float away in the rain if laid on a slope. The large pieces do biodegrade, but at a slower replacement rate than shredded hardwood.
- NEVER volcano mulch your trees: piling mulch up around the base of a tree and going several inches or a foot up the trunk, leaving a mound shaped like a volcano. Spread mulch around your trees, no more than 3 inches deep, and not up against the trunk. Volcano mulching “suffocates” the tree by trapping moisture up against the trunk, compromising the root system and potentially exposing the roots after the mulch decomposes. Volcano mulching also creates an inviting home for pests. Just say no to the volcano!
- Do not over-mulch! Too much mulch of any kind counteracts all the good you are trying to do and can lead to the death of plants, shrubs, and trees. 4 inches deep, max. Once a year, rake out old mulch to “fluff” it. You may find you don’t need to add as much if any.
Mulch is a great way to increase curb appeal, protect plants and trees, and prevent weeds. Take aesthetics into account, as well as other practical issues as outlined above. And don’t be afraid to use different mulches in different areas around your house! There’s no reason for an all-or-nothing mindset.
And when you’ve decided on the kind of mulch you want, give us a call—you can pick it up here, we can deliver it to you, or we can install it for you. We’re happy to help!