FYN Principle #4 - Mulch

Applying a layer of mulch around trees, shrubs, planted beds and on any exposed soil area will reduce water loss, control weeds and prevent runoff. There are a few simple facts to remember about mulch:

  • A 2- to 3-inch layer (after settling) of mulch around most plants reduces evaporation from the soil's surface, moderates soil temperatures and suppresses weeds.
  • Mulches can replace turf or ground covers in areas that are difficult to mow, irrigate or otherwise maintain. Mulches also can be used in shady areas where plants may not grow readily.
  • Mulch requires practically no maintenance, except for occasional additions and weeding.
  • Use mulch that originates in your own landscape by recycling leaves, pine needles, grass and shrub clippings. Several sources of municipal or commercial recycled mulches are also available. Start with your local government solid waste department or recycling coordinator.
  • Avoid using cypress mulch because its harvest degrades cypress wetlands.
  • Shell, crushed stone or pebbles can be used as mulch, but will not contribute to the organic content of your soil. Also, be aware that shell mulch will raise the soil's pH as the shell material dissolves. Also it will reflect heat, increasing water needs of plants.
  • Mulch can provide a design element in your landscape, adding a contrast of color and texture that complements plantings.
  • Reduce the chances of rot by avoiding piles of mulch against plant stems or trunks. Citrus trees are particularly prone to rot from such practice.
  • The use of plastic or fabric weed mats under mulch can inhibit air and water interchange and earthworm mobility. This can be a significant problem on poorly drained sites.