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Old 05-28-2009, 10:32 AM
 
Location: The Hall of Justice
25,907 posts, read 34,973,454 times
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We moved from Southern California to Naperville, IL (Chicago suburbs) last summer. The former owners had a pretty backyard with lots of trees and flowers, and we are doing our best to keep it looking nice.

I've noticed a lot of our neighbors adding mulch to their flower beds and around the base of trees over the last few weeks. Some people have big piles delivered on their driveways, and other people have mounds of bags alongside their house. Mulch is sold at the grocery store and gas stations, not just hardware and home improvement stores. I assume we need to do this too, but don't really know if it is necessary or why.

The spring so far has been nice and damp, so is it to help keep the soil moist for the summer? Is it just to keep the weeds down? Is it mostly because it looks nice and everybody does it? Very few people mulched where we lived in California, but the climate was very different there.

If we do mulch, do we just put it on top of the existing stuff as long as the bed doesn't get too deep? Or do we remove the old stuff?

Anything else I should know? Our local Ace Hardware has an offer now for delivering 30 bags for a set rate, which I think would be adequate for my yard.

Thanks a bunch!
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Old 05-28-2009, 10:46 AM
 
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I always was confused about putting that mulch (made of bark). Some people put black plastic around their plants, and that bark mulch on top to cover the plastic. The plastic in that case suppresses weeds, and mulsh makes it more pleasant to view.

Mulch on soil, I would imagine, is for preventing water from escaping too fast around a plant, and for suppressing weeds, too.

However, mulch pieces make good homes for bugs, ants, snails and all other yacky things.

Personally, never mulched.
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Old 05-28-2009, 11:12 AM
 
Location: U.S.
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Actually all of the reasons for mulching that have been mentioned are correct.

Over time, a thick bed of mulch will help keep weeds down
Aesthetically, mulch cleans up an area
Mulch can help keep soil in place or from being kicked up during rain
Mulch helps keep moisture in planting areas.

We mulch our beds every other year. I personally hate the fabric or plastic the some people put down. It seems to come up over time and since I move things around all the time I find that it is more of a pain than anything.
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Old 05-28-2009, 11:58 AM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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I redo mulch completely every two or three years, and supplement it every year. I prefer pine bark nuggets; there are scads of varieties to choose from.

It gives your flower beds a finished look, keeps weeds down (although it's not going to prevent all weeds from sprouting), the soil where it belongs, and moisture in.

Go with the bags; if you don't use it all this season, you can store it for next season.

And don't worry about bugs and snails. They're in your garden whether you've mulched or not.
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Old 05-28-2009, 01:45 PM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
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Mulch also helps protect your plants during the winter.

I agree about the fabric/plastic that people sometimes put underneath. It's supposed to be a weed guard, but it tends to resurface and boy does that look tacky. It's a pain to rebury, too.

Avoid building a mulch volcano around trees! Those are actually bad for trees. Just an inch or two of mulch is all you need.

If you have a truck, you can often get good quality mulch from your city for free. That's what they do with ground up trees. I like to get it after Christmas, when the mulch smells like christmas trees.

My only other thought about mulch is to stick with the dark brown or black until you've been there a few years and had time to think about what you like. A lot of people buy the red mulch when they start out because it looks so pretty in the garden center. And sometimes it looks great in your garden, too. But other times red mulch can look bad when combined with your plants or your house. Until you really know what you want, stick with brown.
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Old 05-28-2009, 02:49 PM
 
Location: The Hall of Justice
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Thanks, everybody. I'm not sure how old the current mulch is--I wish I had known to ask the owners. I'll take a look at it to see how faded it is. It's dark brown.
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Old 05-28-2009, 02:50 PM
 
Location: The Hall of Justice
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Also, I'm pretty sure we don't have the fabric.
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Old 05-28-2009, 03:44 PM
 
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I don't recommend planting flowers around the base of trees. We learned the hard way! You water the flowers because you want them to look their best. Unfortunately the tree roots want that water too. The roots come up looking for the water and end up twisting themselves around the base of the tree under the mulch. This is not healthy for the tree. The trees need to be watered deep so the roots will grow down. We lost 3- 30 year old oak trees during the 07 ice storm. Those shallow roots didn't help! Mulch is great around flowers and it keeps the ground cool and moist and weed free.
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Old 05-28-2009, 03:48 PM
 
Location: Home is where the heart is
15,400 posts, read 25,253,389 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JustJulia View Post
Thanks, everybody. I'm not sure how old the current mulch is--I wish I had known to ask the owners. I'll take a look at it to see how faded it is. It's dark brown.
As mulch gets older, it decomposes and eventually turns into soil. Personally, I think decomposing mulch is good conditioner for your soil, so I keep it and just add a thin layer on top to look "freshened up."
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Old 05-29-2009, 12:22 PM
 
Location: Philaburbia
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The fabric is good for one thing, if you have a vegetable or an annuals-only garden: Cover the bed in the winter with black plastic/fabric to keep winter annual weeds from sprouting. I hate those things ...
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