Q&A: Mulch basics

A: Generally speaking, mulch is any material that protects soil surface and allows air and water through. Mulch is useful over an area of bare soil and around planted areas. Organic mulches (derived from plant material) add nutrients over time and enrich overall soil composition, so they're hard to beat.
A: Determine the square footage you want to cover and use the following as a guide: A 2-cubic-foot bag covers an area of 8 square feet that's 3 inches deep; 1 cubic yard of mulch covers an area of 108 square feet, 3 inches deep.
A: In general, the denser the mulch particles, the less you need.
A: Spread mulch to the appropriate thickness, taking care to keep it a few inches away from tree trunks and the crowns and stems of plants. If placed too closely, mulch can retain too much moisture causing plants and trees to rot.
A: Inevitably, leaves and other debris will fall on your mulch. You can remove litter with a small hand rake or our personal favorite, a blower, but lighter mulches may blow away along with unwanted material.
A: At least once a year in early spring before weeds sprout. You should also apply a second layer in the fall.
A: You can leave mulch in place indefinitely. Just scrape it aside if you want to plant in a mulched area.
A: Use the same depth and application technique as for most garden shrubs and trees.

Purpose for mulch

A mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of an area of soil. Its purpose is any or all of the following:-

  1. to conserve moisture
  2. to improve the fertility and health of the soil
  3. to reduce weed growth
  4. to enhance the visual appeal of the area

A mulch is usually organic in nature. It may be permanent (plastic sheeting) or temporary (Central Valley walk-on). It may be applied to bare soil, or around existing plants.

Many materials are used as mulches, much of which are used to retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, suppress weed growth, and for aesthetics. They are applied to the soil surface, around trees, paths, flower beds, to prevent soil erosion on slopes, and in production areas for flower and vegetable crops. Mulch layers are normally two inches or more deep when applied.