The Q&A Archives: Mulching

Question: I would like to know more about putting mulch on top of the soil around my perennials and annuals. Should I be putting landscaping fabric down first? If no landscaping fabric is used, do you have to clear aside the mulch and work up the ground from time to time? Anything you can tell me about mulching would be appreciated.

Answer: Mulch is great to help retain soil moisture and reduce weeds, and as it breaks down it provides nutrients to the soil. Any organic matter can be used as mulch. Spread mulch around plants, extending just past their dripline, or canopy edge, which is where the new feeder roots are growing. Leave bare ground around the stem/trunk, so the mulch doesn't touch the plant tissue. This helps prevent fungal diseases, etc. from taking hold. Landscaping fabric has pros and cons. I personally don't use it, particularly in a garden bed situation where you would want to be changing plants, working the soil, etc. If you use it, make sure that it is penetrable by air and water; don't use plastic. If you use compost as a mulch it breaks down fairly rapidly and adds to the soil. Something like bark chips would take much much longer. Unless you have really fertile soil, I think it is always a good idea to incorporate several inches of compost or organic matter to garden beds every season. Hope this helps!

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