A Three-Step Process to Managing Mulch

A Three-Step Process to Managing Mulch

A Three-Step Process to Managing Mulch

We’re excited to publish this special blog post from our Friends at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond. They share some great spring gardening tips and we hope you enjoy them! Don’t forget that if your home is located in a planned community, it’s important to check with your Homeowners’ Association documents before beginning any landscape or gardening projects to ensure those plans comply with community guidelines.

It’s that time of year when the air fills with the rich smell of freshly mulched beds. Spring is the best time to apply mulch for the summer season. Why? It’s much easier to put down mulch when plants are small and just beginning to show leaves.

Why is mulching important?

Mulch helps soil hold moisture and it insulates roots. This is especially important for less-developed and shallow root systems. In the mid-Atlantic region we sometimes experience extreme weather conditions and drought. When there are water restrictions, mulch can be the key to your plants survival.

Mulching is also an investment in plant and tree health. It stabilizes the soil against erosion and provides natural weed control. As an extra bonus, organic mulch can improve soil fertility and structure.


Here are three quick tips to help you manage your mulch:

  1. Assemble Your Tools: If you’re new to mulching, the first step is having the right tools: wheelbarrow, pitchfork and work gloves. Wearing gloves is important when spreading mulch because urushiol (a component in poison ivy) and other irritants may be ground in with the mulch.
  2. Select Your Mulch: The next step is picking the right kind of mulch. There’s no difference in the benefits of natural versus dyed mulch, other than aesthetics and personal preferences. If you have annual beds, triple shredded pine bark mulch is best because of how quickly it breaks down into the soil. Since annuals receive mulch during spring and fall seasons, it’s important for the mulch to decompose into the soil quickly. Perennial beds, on the other hand, do best with hardwood mulch since it is only applied during the spring season and needs to decompose at a slower rate to withstand a longer period of time.If you have pets you may want to avoid cocoa hull mulch since it is poisonous for cats and dogs when ingested. Another note is to avoid any mulch that has the presence of weeds because these can germinate and multiply. Also be sure to choose mulch that is properly seasoned; if mulch is too fresh or too “green,” it can overheat plants and rob the soil of nitrogen.
  3. Use the Right Amount: Mulch should be no more than two to three inches deep, and it should not be piled against the trunk of shrubs and trees. Stop and evaluate before automatically adding another layer of mulch; some years a good fluffing may be all that’s needed.Excessive mounding of mulch above the roots and close to the tree trunk can smother and kill the tree. It also encourages pests and creates an environment for rot, disease and insects. This practice is referred to as creating “mulch volcanoes” and should be avoided. Instead of a volcano, think of a doughnut approach in which the mulch circles the tree but is not piled high against the trunk.

With the right tools, mulch, and application, you’ll be ready to make this investment in your plants’ well-being. Come the hot, dry days of summer, they’ll appreciate it! Learn more gardening tips on the HHHunt Communities blog!