Tips on Applying Mulch
One of the best gardening practices is to cover the soil with mulch. As you can see here, there is bare soil. Bare soil will allow weeds to grow, and it will allow the water to evaporate during the heat of the summer. A mulch layer will control weeds, conserve moisture, and it’s also going to keep the soil cooler during the hot Kansas summer days. So the plants will grow and flourish.
There are a number of different types of mulches that you can use such as grass clippings and leaves from the backyard. Or you can purchase mulch such as shredded hardwood, or pine bark nuggets. In Extension, we always recommend using an organic mulch. That means a wood-based mulch. We don’t recommend using rocks because they heat up and don’t provide any nutrients to the soil.
It’s best to apply a two to four-inch layer around the plants. Leave it slightly away from the base of the plant. The mulch makes it’s own compost layer for improving the soil. And it helps the roots get the oxygen and nutrients they need.
If you’re mulching around bulbs or perennials, you’ll want to follow the same procedure. Take your hands and work in a couple of inches of the mulch around the plants. Mulching can be done any time of the year. We normally think of it as a spring practice – after growth begins. But, if your mulch layer breaks down and decomposes during the summer, you can add more.
A lot of people like to do a topdressing in the fall to help protect the plants over the winter. Every bit of soil in the garden should be covered with mulch. It’s the best thing to use to help improve our plants. It cools the soil, it conserves moisture, it controls weed growth, and it gives the garden a nice, finished look.
This feature story prepared with Dennis Patton, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent, Johnson County. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.