To Mulch or Not to Mulch

 Two of my delivered truckloads of mulch from our recycling center by a good friend.

Two of my delivered truckloads of mulch from our recycling center by a good friend.

To Mulch or Not to Mulch...

Honestly, do you really think this is even a question? Of course we should mulch, there are so many reasons to do it:

  • it helps stabilize soil temperatures
  • keeps moisture in
  • amends our notorious Ozark clay
  • makes a garden bed look finished.

Maybe more importantly, especially to those of us crazy enough to dream about luscious gardens and to try to garden in limestone Ozark hills, mulch will break down into soil. Rich, fluffy, easy to plant, fabulous to grow in - soil.

Mulch starts out as tree limbs that get ground up. In my hometown, the recycling center does the grinding, then piles up the mulch in huge piles. Residents can either help themselves or wait until Wednesdays mid-March through mid-September for a loader to pile on the mulch.

The main challenge with mulch, and mulch piles, is that it takes some time to decompose so that it's ready to be used. If you put a shovel into it and it's smoking, it's literally too hot. If you place that mulch on flower beds, it will literally burn up the plants so let it sit. Maybe for 6 months to a year until it is safe to add.

If you can't wait, only apply 2-3 inches of mulch - less is more - and that shallow layer will quickly cool off enough to not burn. However, using mulch that's so green means it will remove existing soil nitrogens so I don't recommend doing this unless absolutely necessary. Say, you have a wedding in your backyard.

Don't do it if you are listing your house, hot mulch will burn your landscaping so buy already seasoned mulch to give your lawn that finished look only mulch can give.

 One of the benefits of mulch, soil stays moist and mushrooms help decompose the wood chips.

One of the benefits of mulch, soil stays moist and mushrooms help decompose the wood chips.

How Do You Know Your Mulch is Ready to Use?

That's easy, when you pull out a shovel-full, it should be cool to the touch, no heat vapors coming up.

I check my aging mulch piles for tell-tale signs of readiness; earthworms, mushrooms growing, water retention are all good signs the mulch pile is ready to use.

What signs do you use to tell you it's time to mulch?

Charlotte