When done correctly, the process of mulching has many different benefits that can revolutionize your garden. Not only does it have a multitude of practical benefits, but it can seriously improve the visuals and overall beautification of your garden beds. In order to understand which mulch to use, and where to use it, it’s important to first define what exactly mulching is and why it’s beneficial to the overall gardening process.
In this post, we’ll briefly discuss mulch and its benefits, before outlining popular types of mulch and knowing which one to choose for your garden specifically. We’ll also discuss how different planting zones are structured across the United States, and how they can help you determine what and when to plant, particularly in Charlotte, NC.
What is Mulch?
As a prospective green thumb, you may or may not have heard of the term mulch Charlotte NC. For many reasons, mulch and mulching are very popular among gardeners, and tend to have far more advantages than potential drawbacks. But what exactly is mulch? At its most simple, mulch are a protective covering, usually categorized as organic or inorganic, that is placed around plants to prevent moisture evaporation, the freezing of roots, the growth of weeds, and several other potential ailments.
The Benefits of Mulch
Despite the potential drawbacks of using mulch, it tends to be overwhelmingly beneficial for the vast majority of gardeners. The key is deciding which mulch is the best for your garden, and ensuring it’s properly installed. If you can strike the ideal balance, mulch can have a multitude of advantages, (including but not limited) to the following:
- Weed Control: Nothing ruins a gardener’s day faster than encountering an excess of weeds. Weeds are pesky and unsightly and can wreak havoc in your garden if not disposed of. But is there a way to prevent weeds from overtaking your garden? Yes, and it just so happens that mulch is one of the best ways to prevent weeds. A good three to four inches of mulch will smother weeds, by restricting sunlight, keeping them from sprouting.
- Water Retention: Watering is key to a healthy and happy garden. However, it can be time-consuming, especially in the summer months when less humid environments can easily dry out your garden beds. Mulch helps lock in moisture, keeping your soil fed and thriving.
- Year-Round Temperature Protection: Mulch helps regulate your soil during all of the different seasons. It can produce warmth in the winter and promote growth in the springtime. By taking care of your plants throughout the year, they have a much better chance of coming back stronger and healthier in the sprouting season.
- And more: The benefits of mulch are well documented and range from earthworm production to increasing nutrients in the soil.
Choosing the Right Mulch
There are a lot of benefits that come with using mulch, however, one of the hardest parts of understanding mulch is knowing which variety to use. There are seemingly endless types of mulch, and it can be hard to determine where to begin. It all ultimately depends on what you’re trying to grow in your garden and how your landscape supply is designed. Each type of mulch has different pros and cons, and it’s not always as simple as going with the most popular choice. Here are some basic dos and don’ts that can help you find the right type of mulch that will promote a healthy, thriving, backyard paradise.
Do: Learn when the best time of year is to mulch your plants. Here in the United States, we have one of the most versatile landscapes of any country out there. From the great plains to the Rocky Mountains and back to the coasts, there are seemingly an infinite number of terrains to consider. Therefore, it’s helpful not only to learn about what time of year to mulch your garden but what types of plants thrive in your specific region.
Different plants have different planting schedules, and this varies based on where you are geographically. One helpful tool in learning about planting times is knowing what zone you fall into. Planting zones are determined by the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, an interactive map located on the USDA’s website. For example, here in Charlotte NC, we tend to fall within zones 7b and 8a. By knowing your zone, you can determine what plants prosper in your area, and thus, which mulch to use.
Do: Learn about the differences between organic and inorganic materials: Organic mulches originate from living materials. Popular organic mulches are grasses, leaves, pine needles, composts, and shredded bark. Generally, you’re going to want to use organic mulches in gardens because they help condition the soil. Even as they decompose, they add important nutrients to the soil. On the contrary, inorganic mulch is comprised of synthetic materials like plastics, rocks and stones, tarps, and geotextiles (landscape-specific fabrics). While organic mulches are generally better for gardens, inorganic mulches still have their place. In specific situations, inorganic mulches can help reduce wind, and soil erosion, and regulate temperature. However, inorganic materials are usually better for landscaping purposes, rather than using mulch to grow a prosperous garden.
Don’t: Use an improper amount of mulch in your garden: Regardless of what material you choose, it’s important to know exactly how much mulch you need. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to use three to four inches of mulch (preferably organic materials like hardwood or cocoa bean hulls) applied around a plant or tree but NOT touching it. By avoiding common mistakes, you can save your garden from the drawbacks of “over” or “under” mulching.
Don’t: Assume a certain type of mulch material is right for your garden just because it’s popular: A lot of rookies make the mistake of choosing mulch just because it’s common like wood chips or shredded bark. While learning about the most common types of mulch is a good place to start, it’s far more important to consider the characteristics of your actual garden and/or landscape supply Charlotte NC, than to just a mulch just because it’s common.
The best way to utilize mulch is to determine which type is the most advantageous for your garden. A good starting place is to determine what you are going to plant, and how your garden is going to be structured. From there, you can pick the proper material, one that will thrive given the specific characteristics of your garden. There are many choices available, but thankfully, with a little research, you can quickly narrow down the proper type(s) for your particular setup.