FAQ's about MULCH
Why should I apply mulch to my plant beds?
- Mulch gives your landscaping and plant beds a well-cared-for appearance.
- Mulch helps to control weeds by reducing their germination and growth.
- Mulch helps maintain soil moisture, reducing the need for watering.
- Mulch keeps soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, better for plant root systems.
- Mulches can improve soil aeration and structure (aggregation of soil particles).
- Organic Mulch releases nutrients into the soil which benefits plants.
- Mulch helps to protect tree bases and even helps to prevent some plant diseases.
Are dyed mulches safe?
Absolutely! Colorant used in our organic wood dyed mulches is an all-natural pigment that is laboratory tested and certified safe for plants and animals alike. Typical colors are red, brown, and black.
Can stone be used as a mulch alternative?
Sure. Earth and Wood offers a wide variety of decorative gravels in a variety of colors and sizes to fit any landscape. Stone mulch generally costs more but lasts forever, retaining its unique appearance because it never fades or decomposes. Used with bed edging and a weed-stopping landscape fabric, stone mulch is an outstanding long-term value.
My mulch blows away and fades out. How can I prevent this?
Mulch doesn’t really blow away – it simply falls apart or decays. All organic material eventually “grays out” due to exposure to the sun’s rays and will decompose into smaller and smaller particle sizes. As it decomposes it eventually looks like dirt. The good news? As this process continues, the mulch becomes a long-term source of nutrients to the plants it surrounds. However, it will also begin to support weed seeds that blow into the plant beds.
The coarser the mulch, the longer it takes to decay. Pine Nuggets, Pine Needles, and Cypress are coarse mulches that take much longer to break apart (but still gray out over time).
Our dyed mulches can retain their color for up to two years and still look good. Our stone mulches never fade. If long-lasting color is important, choose our dyed mulch or stone mulch. Both are a great value.
Does mulch have bugs and weeds in it?
No, and No. All organic mulch sold by Earth and Wood goes through a natural heating process that raises temperatures to above 140 degrees. This natural pasteurization removes any plant pathogens along with any insects that may wander into it. It is simply too hot. Also, it's an urban legend that termites are found in mulch. Termites live in the ground and come out of the ground to feed on sources of solid wood – usually your house. They may investigate your mulch pile looking for a quick bite, but they already live near your house. The same is true for ants. Many insects like a cool, moist environment that mulch of any kind provides.
However, not all bugs are bad. They’re part of our environment's decomposition process that breaks down organic material for use by your plants.
Weeds are another matter. The older and finer your mulch, the more likely a weed seed blowing in the wind will find a place in your bed and take root. Putting mulch down inhibits weed growth from new weed seeds, but if there are weeds or weed seeds in the ground beneath the mulch, those weeds may sprout up through the mulch and enjoy a great home there with your shrubs and flowers. The best defense against weeds sprouting from soil below the mulch is to apply pre-emergent herbicide to the soil before putting mulch down. Or, use a weed-stopping landscape fabric to create a physical barrier to weed growth, but weed barrier will not prevent wind blown weed seeds, or those dropped by animals.
What's this stuff growing on my mulch?
It’s most likely fungus. As mulch decomposes and temperatures rise in July and August, organic mulch can occasionally become a friendly home to several fungus growths. Fungi are not related to any processing of the mulch. They are simply the result of the proper conditions of temperature and moisture, and occur naturally in most types of mulch.
How do I identify the fungus?
There are 4 types:
- Mushrooms or Toadstools. They vary in size, shape, and color. They are easily removed by raking or breaking them up with your foot. CAUTION: THEY MAY BE POISONOUS IF EATEN.
- Slime Molds. This looks like “dog vomit”. They are normally a temporary nuisance confined to a small area. If left alone, they will decompose. If the appearance is offensive, simply remove and discard.
- Bird Nest Fungus. These resemble tiny, gray to brown bird`s nests or splash cups with eggs. They may grow in large areas of mulch, but are not a problem. They are actually interesting to look at. Show them to children!!
- Artillery or Shotgun Fungus. This is a rare type of fungus. These spores may explode and leave small dots on the siding on your house, which are very difficult to remove. Your best defense is to remove the infected mulch as soon as you notice it.
Is there any mulch that does not support fungus growth?
Out of all the studies done, the most resistant mulch was Large Pine Bark Nuggets. These large nuggets stay hard and dry, conditions that fungus does not like. Cypress mulch also performed well.
Applying the Mulch
Define the Landscape Bed
Edging a landscape bed will prevent mulch from spreading into your grass and looking messy. Cut down approximately six inches around the edge of your bed. Or you may choose to use landscape edging material. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing.
Get Rid of Existing Debris and Weeds
Trim bushes and trees before applying mulch. Remove plant trimmings, dead leaves and existing weeds. While mulch can stop weeds from growing by blocking sunlight to them, mature weeds can push through mulch without sunlight. So before mulching, first weed the entire bed you plan to mulch. It's important that you pull existing weeds out by their roots.
You may opt to use a landscape fabric to further inhibit weed growth. Lay it over the area you are going to mulch. It’s easy to use and quick to lay out and cut.
Determine HOW MUCH Mulch You Need
It's easy to determine how much mulch you need by letting us do the math. Go to any of our mulch products and you'll find a product calculator. You simply need to know the length and width of the beds you plan to mulch. Total those lengths and widths and plug those numbers into our calculator. It will let you know how much you’ll need to cover those areas.
Choose Your Mulch
Browse online or visit one of our four stores to view our displays. Our friendly staff can help you determine which mulch will best suit your needs.
Wood Mulches--- Browse several varieties of textures and colors, each designed to give your landscaping just the right finishing touch.
Stone Mulches---Try something different. Discover a complete line of stone mulch in a wide variety of color and textures to help make your landscape unique. And it lasts forever.
Apply Your Mulch
Bagged mulch --- Distribute the bags out over the area to be mulched, about every 12 square feet. Cut open the bags and spread the mulch evenly. Maintain approximately a three-inch depth.
Bulk mulch --- Use a wheelbarrow to move the mulch. You may wish to start by using half a wheelbarrow at a time. Dump it into the bed and spread it, maintaining a three-inch depth. When you have finished, sweep any leftover mulch from your driveway.
SuperSacks --- Want to save some work? Check out our SuperSacks. We deliver them right to your planting beds.
Don’t Use Too Much
If mulch is already present, check the depth. As beneficial as mulch is, too much can be harmful. Generally, the recommended mulching depth is 2 to 4 inches.
It's best to not pile up mulch around tree trunks. Pull it back several inches so that the base of the trunk and the root crown are exposed.
Step Back and Enjoy the View
And you’re done! Your property looks great and you can enjoy a yard with fewer weeds to pull and healthy, beautiful plants displayed in uniform, well-cared-for beds.
FAQ's about your LAWN
I can't get grass to grow under my trees. Is my soil bad?
Probably not. For grass to grow strong, it must have soil that has enough space to allow for water and air to be held, and for roots to penetrate the soil up to 9”. But it also has to have enough light. Usually the poor grass growth under trees is from too little sunlight reaching the grass. The only real solution is to prune the tree to allow more light – or to create a bed and mulch around the tree.
I can't get grass to grow in some spots in my lawn. Is there a problem with the soil or seed?
Probably neither one. Most folks don’t loosen the soil enough on the spots in the lawn. These spots are really compacted because they’ve been rained or walked on and the grass roots can’t penetrate them easily. To be successful, take a shovel or pick and REALLY loosen the dirt to 4 to 6” deep. Grass seed will sprout with the addition of water and GOOD SEED-SOIL contact. Just throwing loose seed down on hard ground won’t get it done. For good success, the seed has to be thrown down and then buried with the back of a rake, or pushed down into the soil with a lighter roller, a foot, or some other devise. Seed must be “planted” to sprout.
Do I need to fertilize when I plant my seed?
Not really. Seed contains enough nutrients to get it growing until it needs mowed. Also consider that until the plant develops roots, it can’t absorb any nutrients. Of course you can add a “starter” fertilizer when you seed but you can also wait until the grass has been mowed to add your fertilizer – when the plant has some roots to absorb the nutrients.
What is starter fertilizer?
It’s a low concentration of nutrients blended to focus on the development of the plant roots. Earth and Wood offers a custom blend in small 10 pound quantities. It's a 6-12-12, lower in Nitrogen to help protect from burnout.
Do I have to apply LIME every year?
No you don’t – and no, you should not. Lime is used to raise the pH of the soil. Without getting too technical, what’s important is that grass (and other plants) grows BEST when the pH is in a certain range. The addition of lime will raise PH over time. Too much lime, though, can result in a pH that is too high and your grass or plants will not do as well. The only way to really know how much lime to apply is to have a soil test done. Bring a pint of soil into any of our stores and for a small fee, we’ll send it out to a lab. They’ll send it back with both Lime and Fertilizer recommendations.
Should I remove my lawn clippings when I mow my grass?
NO. NO. NO. Removing them removes the nutrients. It's an urban legend that grass clippings lead to excess thatch in the lawn. NOT true. Do yourself a favor and leave grass clippings on the lawn. You’ll save time and fertilizer.
FAQ's about SOIL
Are all soils the same?
No way. Soils have two characteristics that are important – fertility and texture.
Fertile soil will grow plants better than infertile soil. Any soil can be made more fertile with the addition of nutrients found in fertilizers. Fertility is something that can’t be seen with eye. It can only be measured with a soil test.
Texture is another matter. Even fertile soil that has poor texture won’t grow good plants. Good texture means that the soil has a lot of open space between the soil particles – called pore space. The space between the particles is where air and water are held for the plant. It’s also where the roots find their way downward. Without enough pore space, plants won’t grow well. A walking path is a good example of soil that’s so compacted that all the pore space is gone. Water won’t soak into it, and roots can’t penetrate it. On the other hand, too much pore space is just as bad. Try growing grass on the beach. Water goes right through it and does not hang around enough for the plant to use it.
Good soils have good fertility and good texture (pore space).
How can I tell if my soil is fertile?
A lab test is the most accurate, but there is a visual way to make an educated guess.
Note the color – the darker the soil, the more organic matter. In general, the higher the percentage of organic matter in the soil, the more long-term fertility it will have. Organic matter is decomposed plant material, and most topsoil contains 2-5%. High organic soil such as OHIO PEAT or COMPOST may contain 60%. Fertilizers can be added to supply more nutrients to the soil.
Earth and Wood mixes high-organic materials into its soil products to increase organic levels and long-term fertility.
How can I tell if my soil has good texture?
The best soils have textures with a wide range of particle sizes. They’re called “granular” soils and have a lot of open space between the particles for water and air to be held for growth.
Many of our customers would like soil that's as fine as powder. But because the texture lacks the openness needed for good plant growth and root penetration, this would not be good soil. On the other hand, soil made up of only marble-size particles would not be good, either. Good texture is typical of a soil that can be squeezed into a ball with your hand and then broken up again with a small amount of effort.
Earth and Wood soil products are specifically blended to provide enhanced texture and fertility.
There are stones in my soil. Is that bad?
Not at all. Stones and woody elements in the soil help to create the texture and pore space mentioned above. Any wood or grass pieces decompose, creating additional pore space for roots to grow and water to be held.
My soil is clumpy. Is that bad?
Not really. We screen or sift our soils to make them easier to work with. In the spring and after rains, soil particles are wetter and tend to stick together more, creating clumps after being screened and loaded. Most clumps break up readily with raking and natural drying. Sometimes people confuse these small soil “balls” with stones, but this has no affect on the fertility and overall texture of the soil where plant growth is concerned.