The Dos & Don'ts of Mulching |
Anne Roberts Gardens mulching-bed

The Dos & Don’ts of Mulching

Mulching has many benefits if done correctly. Mulch itself is a material that is spread over the surface of the soil. It can be an organic or inorganic material. Organic mulch consists of formerly living things, such as chopped leaves, straw, compost, wood chips, and other materials, even paper. Inorganic mulches include stones, plastics, and manufactured materials such as landscaping fabrics. These days you can even find recycled tires at playgrounds chopped up as mulch. The rubber mulch lasts longer than organic materials, utilizes recycled tires that could otherwise end up in landfills, and is gentler on little knees and elbows during falls.

Some of the major benefits of mulching include:

  • Regulating soil temperature, protecting plants’ delicate root system in all seasons
  • Retaining soil moisture, helping to cut back on the amount of watering you have to do during those dry, hot summer days. Only 10% of rainwater evaporates with mulch but with no mulch, up to 80% of rainwater evaporates.
  • Preventing weeds, which reduces garden maintenance
  • Plants grown with mulch produce higher yields than plants grown without.
  • Creating a finished look for your garden, improving your curb appeal!


Anne Roberts Gardens mulchmadness-1-300x225 Oftentimes, homeowners can get a little carried away when mulching. A two to four-inch layer is all that is needed. Too much can prevent air and water from reaching the soil. Avoid creating a “volcano” of mulch around your trees. In fact, keep a few inches around your tree trunk clear and free of any mulch. You want to see the flare at the bottom of the tree. Mulch piled up around the trunk can lead to decay, bacteria growth, or a secondary root system that will grow around the trunk and eventual choke your tree. The same holds true for garden beds. Keep mulch away from or thin around the base of the plant or the “drip” area” (the end of the branch tips), so water can reach the soil.

To determine what mulch to use on your property, there are a few things to consider, such as whether you need a more permanent solution for edging a driveway or patio, or if you have curious pets that are often left unsupervised outside. Are you looking for a material that will add nutrients to the soil as it decomposes or would you prefer a longer-lasting option?

Want to learn more about mulch? Here are a few articles we recommend:

Tips on How to Keep Mulch Safe for Pets

Mulch calculator

About The Author

Anne Roberts
Anne Roberts
Chicago Landscaper, Master Gardener, Green Roof Specialist & Degreed Horticulturist at Anne Roberts Gardens

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