Here are this week’s gardening questions and answers, provided by Parker County Master Gardeners. To submit a question, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Parker County Master Gardeners, or to become a member, call 817-598-6096 or visit www.pcmg-texas.org.
I’ve been told to use mulch around my trees and shrubs. Can you give me some pointers?
Mulch is a gardener’s greatest secret weapon. It helps control weeds, conserve water and moderate soil temperature while adding valuable nutrients to improve your soil. The particular mulch you use is a matter of preference as long as it is organic (composed of plants that once were living).
There are several choices on the market. Pine bark and hardwood mulches are good since they break down easily and stay in place well. Cypress and cedar mulches take longer to break down and are favored by those who do not like to add new mulch every year. Pecan shell mulch is also popular, but has sharp edges that are difficult to work around. There are several colored mulches on the market made from shredded pine pallets. An inexpensive option is to shred your leaves in the fall to create your own leaf mulch.
Regardless of the type, mulch should be spread at least three inches thick. One cubic yard (a pickup load) of mulch can cover about 100 square feet; so use this as a guide for how much to purchase. Some of our local suppliers will deliver this in bulk, or you can purchase in bags at any garden supply store. Most bags contain 2 cubic feet, so you will need 12 bags to equal one cubic yard.
Mulch is very effective in helping to establish young trees. Apply the mulch all the way to drip line (the edge of the leaves in the tree canopy). This will allow more water to reach the roots without competition from other plants. Apply an even 3 inches of mulch over the entire space. Avoid the volcano look by thinning the mulch at the base of the tree.
There are other materials out there that are advertised as mulch but are not organic, including black plastic sheeting, pelletized rubber and rocks. While these items may be useful for playgrounds, soil solarization or dry stream beds, they are not a substitute for true organic mulch.
Check out our local suppliers and chose organic mulch that best fits your preference. Now is a great to time to boost your landscape with a healthy addition of mulch.