Mulching is a practice adopted by gardeners in all climates. Mulch retains water, soil temperature, keeps the weeds out and adds aesthetic appeal to the landscape. There are very many choices for mulch and while mulching isn't very complicated, there are several things to keep in mind when choosing and applying the right mulch for your area.
Organic mulch, such as shredded bark, leaf mold and pine needles, decomposes through time and adds nutrients to the soil. In addition, the soil is more aerated, better draining and moister than soil beds where organic mulch has never been applied.
Some mulches provide insulation for plants during the winter. Wood chips, straw, shredded leaves and pine needles make excellent winter blankets. However, they also prevent the soil from warming in the spring. Remove the mulch in the spring, and then reapply it later in the late spring or early summer, if desired.
Mulch used during the hot summer or late spring helps keep the soil warm after it has warmed up. They also are used to control weeds and retain moisture. Good summer mulches are wood chips, bark mulch and gravel or rocks.
Not all mulches cost the same and some, like cocoa hulls, can be expensive. Consider mulches that resemble expensive mulches and have similar benefits. Examples include cedar mulch and decorative bark chips. Nonorganic mulches, such as gravel, stone and volcanic rock, may be costly, but will not need replenishing like organic mulches.
Apply 2 to 3 inches of mulch for both winter and summer protection. This equates to about 18 to 25 cubic feet of mulch for every 100 square feet of space. Avoid mulching directly around plant stems because the mulch can hold too much moisture and cause the crowns of the plant or stems to rot and form mold.