If your landscape consists of shrub and flower beds, as most do in Carolina, then now is a great time to add additional mulch into those beds. Mulch can be purchased in bags at garden centers and the big box stores, but consider buying it in bulk if you have a truck to haul it in. It’s cheaper this way and eliminates the need to dispose of a bunch of plastic bags. In my case, I use pine bark mulch to add to my blueberry patch, so I’m loading up my truck about every day with mulch to take home to add to my plants. I’ve also used pecan shells, as both add acidity to the soil for acid-loving plants such as blueberries.
Common types of mulch can consist of bark from pine, cedar, cypress, cottonseed hulls, pecan shells, or pine needles. Mulch can be ground up into finer chips, or larger and more decorative. The benefits of mulch include:
- Protects the root system or trees and shrubs by insulating from extreme temperatures.
- Help protect against weed germination by preventing some seeds from reaching the soil.
- Helps conserve soil moisture in the soil.
- Helps prevent soil erosion.
- Looks better than bare dirt, and adds color to the landscape.
- Provides organic material to the soil as it slowly breaks down.
A thin layer of about 2-3″ of organic mulch is generally enough. Too much mulch can lead to insect and rodent problems and decrease air movement into the root system. Organic mulch does break down with time, so it’s a good idea to add a fresh layer of new mulch about every year or so to your landscape. Freshening up existing mulch with raking and turning over also is a good practice. We do recommend organic mulches over ones like rocks or rubber mulches, since they provide the added benefit of adding organic matter back into the soil. We think it looks more natural also, as this is what would be present in any forest floor, a nice layer of decomposing leaves, bark, and other organic materials.