When it comes to mulching, the expression “too much of a good thing” applies. While mulch can be incredibly beneficial for your plant beds, if you apply too much, it can have harmful repercussions.
We find that a lot of people are surprised to learn that over mulching is even possible. That’s why we’ve rounded up some advice that will help guide you toward making better mulching decisions.
Excessive Mulch Becomes Waterlogged
One of the big benefits of mulching your plant beds and tree or shrub areas is that it will help your plants’ roots to retain moisture. This is because the mulch acts as a beneficial barrier from the drying effects of the wind and sun.
However, when you apply an excessive amount of mulch, it is more likely to absorb the water and become waterlogged. When this occurs, it reduces the amount of water that makes it to your plants’ roots. On top of that, when the mulch becomes heavy with moisture, trees and shrubs tend to develop new roots to try and pull in some of that moisture. But with these roots closer to the surface than they ought to be, they can begin to circle trunks and choke the plant.
Too Much Mulch Won’t Breakdown
Another benefit of mulch is the fact that it decomposes over time and naturally adds nutrients to your plants in the process. If you’re adding just the right amount of mulch to your plant bed (a number that can vary based on site conditions but is usually around 2 to 3 inches), then the mulch should naturally decompose with no problem.
The idea is to replace plant beds with a new layer of fresh mulch each year and allow the breakdown process to begin all over again.
However, if you’re over mulching your beds each time you get new mulch, that’s going to impact the decomposition process. Mulch can begin to pile up instead of breaking down. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see over-mulched properties have an accumulation of a foot of mulch over time because more and more keeps getting added.
If you have plant beds that have been over mulched and are not naturally breaking down, mulch removal might be necessary before receiving that fresh layer and starting anew.
Over Mulching can Harm Plants
A lot of people are also surprised to learn that over mulching can damage or even kill plants. One way that this can occur is when mulch suffocates the roots because it prevents circulation between the air and the soil. Your plants do need oxygen to thrive. But a thick layer of mulch can also harm plants by generating too much heat. Whereas the appropriate amount of mulch can actually help to insulate plants and regular soil temperature fluctuations, too much mulch ends up trapping heat in the soil.
Of course, the waterlogging that we mentioned earlier can also harm plants—not only because it prevents water from making it to the plant roots, but also because it creates conditions where disease may take over.
Another way that you sometimes see mulch harm plants is when “mulch volcanoes” are formed in mulched tree rings. This is when mulch is piled up against the tree itself and then tapered down. Mulch volcanoes are such a common problem that you might actually think they’re the correct way to mulch a tree. In reality, mulching around a tree should look like a donut. When you pile mulch up against a tree it can cause bark rot due to trapped moisture. It can also lead to insect infestations.
Choosing Mulching Services to Prevent Over Mulching
While mulching is not rocket science, you can see how this beneficial practice can easily go awry when mistakes are made. Unfortunately, even some pros make these over mulching errors and cause potential problems on your landscape.
That’s why it’s important to choose a company that can offer you peace of mind that mulching will be performed properly. After all, if you’re investing in professional mulching, you deserve to reap all of the benefits.
For more information on how Estate Landscaping can take care of your landscaping needs, give us a call at (239) 498-1187, or Contact Us.
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