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Mulch-Finishing The Masterpiece

from: Todd Wessel



Mulching is the final step in the process of installing your landscape.

When done properly, mulch will give your landscape the new showroom shine, the WOW factor.

Do this to enhance the look before you mulch.

Remove any rocks bigger than a golf ball or debris left in your landscape.

Prune any wild hairs on the tops of your new or existing plants.

Fertilize all of your plants.

Make sure all of your edges are neat and straight.

Using Roundup

If you have an existing landscape, you may have some weeds in your beds. Take your weed eater and cut the weeds close to ground level, leaving some leaves on the plants. Roundup needs leaf surface to spray onto or the chemical will not be absorbed into the plant.

Spray weeds with roundup and let sit for a couple hours. The chemical will dry and be absorbed by the weed. Roundup will then work its way thru the weed, killing down to the root. You can now mulch right over the top.

Make sure the chemical has dried before you walk back into the garden to mulch. Roundup that is still wet will attach itself to your shoes. When you walk back into your lawn from the garden to get more mulch, the chemical will rub off your shoes and kill the grass.

Combining Evergreen Beds

If you have an opportunity to combine some of the larger evergreens into one big bed, do so at this time. Eliminating the mowing and weed eating under the pines will save a lot of time and the finished look is spectacular

Pull the edge from under the pines all the way out until it is 1 foot past where the bottom branches end now. Paint a line all the way around and follow the same steps of weed eating and spraying with roundup above.

Be extremely careful about knowing where you step under the pine beds. The bed space is a lot bigger and the chance of walking thru roundup and killing grass is even greater. If there is a lot of spraying to be done under the pines, I would suggest buying a dye that you can put into your sprayer to tell you where the spray is.

Cleanup any dead leaf or perennial debris. Cut down your ornamental grasses

Final grade the slope away from any objects (house, shed, etc.) to help with drainage and level any footprints or depressions left in the soil.

When you grade along the area where your beds meet the foundations of buildings, make sure this area is smooth. When you mulch this area, the smoother the soil is, the better the finished product looks. You donít want this area all bumpy and rippled; your eye will be pulled right to waves.

Time to Mulch

Mulch is used to enhance the look of every landscape. It hides all the imperfections and shows only the beauty.

Mulch is the perfect finish to all the hard work put into installing a landscape.

Mulch is not only limited to color. It helps keep weeds under control, helps with erosion, keeps water from evaporating quickly around the roots of plants and is used as a cushion for our children when they fall in their playgrounds.

Mulch is a necessary part of any landscape, use it wisely.

How much did you say I need?

Figure out the quantity of mulch you will need by doing the same calculations we did for the soil amendments. Length of bed x width x depth of mulch divided by 27 = number of yards.

Bed equals 20 feet by 10 feet = 200 square feet 2" of mulch---2" divided by 12"=.17 200x.17 = 34 cubic feet 27 is the cubic feet factor you divide by 34 divided by 27 = 1.26 yards of mulch.

Every yard of mulch is equal to 9 bags of mulch -- each bag is 3 cubic feet. That is 9 (3cubic feet) bags.

Buy bulk if you can.

If you need a large quantity, buy the bulk mulch and have it delivered to your house. It is usually cheaper and not as heavy. Mulch in bags is sometimes wet when filled at the mulch plant, and can be very heavy and hard to maneuver around the garden.

Try to have the mulch put in an area that is readily accessible and easy to get to the garden. Figure this spot out before the mulch is delivered or you will spend a lot of your energy hauling the mulch back and forth from the pile.

I recommend dyed brown mulch but be careful.

If you are going to use dyed mulch, and I recommend brown only, know that when the dye is sprayed onto the mulch, it needs to dry before you use it. If you have a pile delivered to your house on your concrete driveway and it rains before the dye dries, the dye will stain your concrete. Be careful and know the forecast.

I highly recommend brown dyed mulch for any landscape. Deep rich brown color remains all season. You canít beat the color and thereís no reason for a fall mulch. Fall mulching is used primarily to refresh the color in the landscape. If the initial mulch is still holding its color in the fall, there is no reason to spend the extra money.

You need to be very careful that a second mulching does not become excessive in the amounts on the beds.

The look of any garden after the spring mulch is applied is phenomenal. The only problem is that shredded hardwood mulch starts losing its color after the first month, quickly deteriorating from there. Brown dyed mulch will look as good in September as it did in March. Try it you will love it. How do I spread it?

Use a wheel barrow, trash can or shovel to start dumping piles around your garden. There really is no easy way to get the mulch into the beds. This is why it is important to dump the pile as close to the garden as possible. Scoop it up, fill up the wheel barrow and dump it out. Use whatever is easiest for you.

Spread to a depth of 1" on existing mulch or 2" on a new landscape. The total amount of mulch on your beds at any time should never exceed 2". If you have existing mulch that is at 1" now, you only want to install 1" of fresh mulch on top.

Spreading new mulch? Only pinch an inch.

If you are about to put new mulch on existing mulch, it is always a good idea to use a cultivator or hard rake to loosen up the top layer of the old first. This allows more oxygen to get inside the mulch layer and help with decomposition. The mulch on your landscape beds should break down some every year.

Mulch over time will clump or mat together from the compaction caused by the wetting of the spring and summer rains and roots growing thru. This matting will actually shed water away from your plants instead of absorbing like mulch is designed to do. This becomes a real problem when mulch is continually piled on top of itself year after year and never cultivated or removed.

Mulch Volcanoes? First wonder of the landscape world.

Do not pile mulch up against the trunks of trees or shrubs. Over time the moisture from the mulch will soften the bark, possibly allowing insect damage

Do not pile mulch around the trunks of laurel shrubs; it will promote an insect known as a borer. The moisture from the mulch will soften the bark and allow the insect to deposit its eggs into the trunk where they will grow, burrow thru the wood and kill the shrub.

Do not pile mulch up on tree rings, making the mulch volcano. As the mulch becomes deeper and deeper, moisture will stop getting thru to the root system. The mulch will get wet but the roots will stay dry. The roots will start to grow into the mulch searching for the water, instead of staying in the soil. When the weather gets into a drought situation, the mulch will dry out first, the roots in the mulch will dry out and the tree will stress.

Mulch around tree rings should be almost even with the ground. Newly installed trees will be a little higher because of the soil piled around them, but after one year, the soil should be smoothed out and mulched lower.

Good luck and take pictures of the finished product. Your landscape will never look better.

Todd Wessel



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