Choosing the Right Mulch for Your Landscaping Needs
Mulch is important in landscaping for many reasons. Perhaps most important is that a proper mulch helps you win the fight against weeds. In addition, it helps keep the soil moist and at the right temperature for the health of your plants. Today's mulches can also contribute the the look of your home, as well.
If you've been wondering about good looking red, brown, or black mulch that is being seen widely, what you are seeing is dyed mulch. These mulches are made from chipped hardwood that has been dyed. The main reason for dying them is that fresh, natural hardwood mulch looks nice and brown in the beginning, but fades to a dull gray in a few years. Dyed mulches keep their rich color for many years, and accent the color of your home and flowers. In addition to red, brown, and black, you can also find other colors, including gold and other natural shades.
Homeowners differ in their choice of hardwood mulch. Some are die-hard naturalists, while others compromise with nature a little in order to get the look they want. Some people may be wondering about the safety of the dyed mulches. Fortunately, the dyes are made from plant sources and are generally regarded to be safe for handling and around food plants. You can also look for gardening products that are certified to be safe by the Mulch and Soil Council (MSC.) This will ensure that there were no old pressure-treated waste woods used in making the mulch, which have been found to increase arsenic levels in the soil.
Hardwoods are not the only trees that find their ways into mulch products. The softwood, pine, is used in pine bark, pine straw, and pine bark nuggets. Pine bark mulch is similar to the hardwood mulches mentioned above. It is a durable mulch, with the larger pieces lasting longer than the smaller ones. Pine bark mulch decomposes into rich soil over the years, and is particularly appropriate to use in flower beds.
Pine straw mulch is actually the needles from pine trees that are raked up and baled to be sold. It is less expensive than many other mulches, all natural, and easy to use. It is very good for controlling erosion on a sloping area and does not wash away as some other mulches can. It decomposes more quickly than pine bark, and has to be replaced frequently. Pine straw is particularly appropriate to use around plants that love an acid soil, such as azaleas.
Pine bark nuggets are similar to pine bark mulch except in larger pieces. This means that they will decompose more slowly than the smaller pieces, but they can also be washed away in a heavy rain. Use them in level places to avoid this. In general, wood product mulches should be used in a layer of 2-3 inches. Any deeper than this, and they can become attractive to rodents. To avoid any danger of termite damage, you can keep bark mulched beds away from the foundation of your home and use stone mulches there instead.