Tips for using the right mulch when gardening, landscaping

Mulches are materials placed on the surface of the soil to enhance landscape beauty, improve soil conditions, protect plants from foot traffic and lawn equipment, and suppress weeds.

Mulches are either organic or inorganic

To give your landscape plants the best option, organic mulches such as compost, wood chips, hardwood or softwood bark or leaves are your best bet. This is because organic mulches break down, improving soil structure and increasing soil fertility. Inorganic mulches such as gravel, stone, rock, or rubber do not offer the same benefits as organic choices since they cannot decompose.

Mulch, not up

Avoid “mulch volcanoes”, which is when mulch spreads over the trunk of a tree, creating a “volcano” look. Mulch, not deeply, extending the mulch to the drip line of the tree if possible. The “drip line” refers to the outermost edge of the tree canopy. Mulch only two to four inches deep. More than four inches of mulch can damage a plant’s root system.

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Recoil from the tree trunk

Keep mulch away from the trunk of a tree, allowing the root splay to show just above ground level. For all your landscape plants, keep the mulch away from the crown of the plants. This will ensure that the plants will not suffer from excess humidity.

Other Tips

Before replacing the mulch each season, check the depth. Some old mulch may need to be removed before adding the new material. Finely shredded mulches break down faster; therefore, they need to be replaced more often.

Mulch Really Matters

Mulching, when done correctly and with the right equipment, is one of the most beneficial practices you can do for plant health, especially trees and shrubs.

Future event

Join us for our annual Herb & Flower Saturday Festival from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 18 at the CCE grounds and Parker F. Scripture Gardens at 121 Second St. in Oriskany. For more information, visit and click on the Herb & Flower Festival image. Or call 315-736-3394, (dial “1” when you hear the recording, then press extension 100.)

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