For planting success, be sure to amend your soil, mulch well, and water regularly throughout the season! All plants benefit from added organic conditioning, mulching to retain water and keep weeds away, and consistent watering. Be good to your plants. They will return the favor with long-lasting and increased value to you and your home!
Spring is just around the corner, which means many of us will soon be planting small trees and shrubs to beautify our landscapes. Once the job of planting is over, don’t forget one very important step… mulching! Mulch is a young tree’s best friend. It holds down competing weeds or grass, retains moisture (especially beneficial once the hot weather rolls around), prevents soil cracking that can damage new roots, protects the trunk from lawnmower damage, and helps prevent soil compaction.
Common mulches include bark, wood chips, licorice root, pine needles, decorative gravel, and crushed lava. Organic mulches such as licorice root, bark, or pine needles also contribute to better soil structure and aeration as they decompose. If using stone, avoid limestone rock. Spread the mulch to a diameter of at least 3 feet with about a 2” thickness. Don’t pile any higher than 3” and most importantly, do not allow the mulch to touch the tree’s trunk. Over the next few years of the tree’s life, this can create many problems, one of the most common being that the bark tissue begins to stress and decay, allowing plant diseases and insects to gain entry into the trunk.
As I look out at my gardens and trees, I think about the instant gratification of mulching…the fresh, rich color and well defined edges, not to mention all of the benefits of mulching:
- Prevents weed growth
- Conserves moisture in the soil
- Cools the soil surface and stabilizes soil temperature in the heat of summer
- Reduces soil erosion on slopes
- Adds organic matter to the soil as the older mulch decomposes
As tempted as I am to start mulching-away, it is just not the right time yet. The best time to mulch is in late spring, after the soil has had time to warm. Mulching in March will only insulate the cold soil and shield it from the sun and warmth. This will delay plant growth, both established and newly planted.
For now, I will prepare for mulching by tackling those pesky weeds that are already popping up in my beds.