Using Mulch in and Around Your Lawn

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Jun 5, 2020

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Mulch is a great way to add a little extra pop to your lawn. Whether it’s a striking red mulch, a sharp black mulch, or just the natural undyed beauty of wood-chip mulch, it adds a wonderful contrast to your deep-green turf.

But mulch is so much more than a great accent piece. It also has a wide range of other benefits, including moisture retention, pest prevention, nutrient retention, and more. The benefits depend on the type of mulch you plan to use and where you use it.

Below we cover all the benefits of mulch and its practical application to help make your landscaping beds look great and remain healthy.

How Mulch Helps Your Lawn

Mulch, of course, makes your lawn look incredible, but when used correctly, it also offers a wide range of benefits for your lawn besides making it grab the eyes of passersby.

Below are some of the key hidden benefits of using mulch around your yard.

Retains Moisture

One key benefit mulch offers is improving your soil’s moisture retention. Mulch acts as a barrier between the sun and your soil, preventing excessive evaporation from robbing your plants of their required water.

Organic mulches, like bark and other wood-based mulch, also retain water. This water retention helps keep even more moisture within the soil.

You’d want to use these moisture-retaining mulches in areas that get a fair amount of sun throughout the day. Adding it in shady areas may be counterproductive and lead to fungus growth, which can harm your plants. Use less-absorbent mulches, like stones or rubber, in shadier areas.

Slows Soil Erosion

Over time, the soil in your landscape bed can erode due to runoff from rain and irrigation, potentially exposing your irrigation drip or soaker hoses and limiting the availability of water and nutrients available to your plants.

Mulch creates a barrier between the falling water and wind that causes this erosion and your soil. This slows the erosion process and leaves you with suitable soil conditions for longer, even in heavy rain.

The heavier the rainfall, the heavier the mulch you’ll need. For example, in a landscape bed in the middle of your yard or around a tree, you may need only tree bark mulch to get by. But, in an area bombarded by heavy rain runoff, like a bed directly under the edge of your roof (if your home lacks gutters) will need something heavier, like stones, to prevent being washed away.

Maintains and Increases Soil Nutrition

Because it prevents runoff, mulch also prevents nutrient leaching, giving your plants access to the nutrients they need.

It can also enhance the nutrients in your soil a few ways. First, organic mulches, like tree bark, wood, and grass clippings, may decompose over time, releasing more nutrients into the soil.

Also, since mulch causes warm, moist conditions near the top of the soil, it attracts earthworms, whose excrement is a great fertilizer. Earthworms also aerate your soil and improve its overall structure.

Earthworm activity is particularly helpful if you have dense soil, like clay, that needs frequent aeration. Also, nutrient-lacking sandy soils will benefit from the additional natural fertilizer.

Repels Pests

Some organic mulches are known to attract certain bugs, but others do the opposite and keep them away or even kill them.

In the latter category are cedar and cypress chips, which contain natural oils and chemicals known to kill or at least limit the activity of termites, cockroaches, moths, carpet beetles, certain ant species, and more. These wood-chip mulches are great in almost any landscaping bed, but avoid areas with heavy water impact, like near the edge of a roof, as they are easily washed away.

In areas where a pretty-looking bed isn’t as important, you can opt for straw or cocoa bean shells. Straw is known to repel cucumber beetles, and cocoa bean shells prevent slugs and termites. Use care with cocoa bean shells, though, as they are toxic to dogs.

Weed Control

Controlling weeds is another common benefit to mulch. Regardless of the type of mulch you use, it creates a strong light-filtering barrier between the sun and your soil. This barrier keeps the sun’s rays from reaching the seeds, preventing or slowing seed germination before emergence, acting almost like a pre-emergent herbicide.

It’s still possible for the occasional weed to pop through the mulch, but the mulch makes it easy to spot. Plus, they are generally poorly rooted, making them easy to pull.

While all mulches offer weed-controlling properties, some are better than others. Mulches that form thick layers, like wood chips and shavings create a stronger barrier than stones or rubber mulches. So, choose the mulch that’s appropriate for the level of weed control you need.

Temperature Regulation

Temperature regulation is a hidden gem among the many benefits of mulch. Mulch tends to retain the warmth of the sun and also creates a strong barrier between chilly air and your soil. This can prevent your soil from freezing and potentially pushing your perennial crowns out into the deadly cold air.

This is great in cooler areas that deal with harsh winters, but it can also work well in some southern states where the occasional frost makes headlines for its destructive powers.

Some mulches work better than others in temperature regulation. Stone tends to retain heat longer, making it a great option in northern states. Shredded mulch also creates a thick thatchlike layer that can act as a thick winter coat.

More Than a Pretty Face

Mulch is more than just a pretty face that makes your yard pop. It also offers tons of benefits to the plants and trees it surrounds. Now’s the time to choose the mulch that best suits your needs and reap the benefits it offers.