Mulch can be a gardener’s best friend. It can help to keep roots from overheating, retards weed growth, retains moisture, and it looks great! Plus, in the case of organic mulch, as it breaks down it will actually enrich your soil.
Wood mulch comes in many types, sizes and colors. Regardless of what color or size mulch you choose, all will help inhibit weed growth thereby decreasing competition for water. Any weeds that do start to take root in a well mulched bed should pull out easily. And, the fewer weeds there are, the more water is left available for your desirable plants.
A mulched bed loses only 10% of its moisture to evaporation, compared to over a 66% loss for a “bare bed”. And, here’s a tip—if you lay down 4-5 sheets of black and white newspaper (wet it first to help keep it in place) and then cover it with a layer of mulch you’ll create a permeable water barrier that will enrich your soil and keep your bed virtually weed-free for up to a year. Along with the newspaper, any mulch made from wood will eventually break down and help enrich your soil.
When you first lay down wood mulch you’ll stimulate the microorganisms in it that help to break it down. This causes the mulch to heat up in the same way that turning a pile of compost does. It is wise to keep the mulch several inches away from small and/or young plants until it’s had a chance to cool down. If you’re buying mulch in bulk form, it is advisable to place it on your driveway until you’re able to move it into the desired location(s). Laying down a tarp first on your driveway makes cleanup a breeze and you won’t risk burning your grass as the mulch cools down.
Landscaping stones are considered “inorganic mulch”. They offer the water retention and weed inhibiting characteristics of wood mulch but will not enrich your soil. Landscaping stones are best suited for use in an area that you do not plan on replanting. When it’s practical, landscaping fabric should be put down over the soil before you lay down the stones. The landscaping fabric will help keep the stones from sinking into the ground when it’s wet. Small landscaping stones tend to sink into the soil and move around more easily than larger stones, so if you have a steep grade, a larger stone will work much better. You’ll pay more up front for landscaping stones than for wood mulch, but if you’re able to keep the stones from migrating, you will not have to replace or “top off” each year as you would with wood mulch so in the long run, they’re more cost efficient.
Color is often a key factor in determining which mulch to select. Light colored organic mulch reflects heat, which helps keep the soil cooler. Dark organic mulch absorbs heat and doesn’t transfer it to the soil below. And, that can be good because plant roots won’t work as hard when they’re not overheated. However, since dark organic mulch absorbs heat (think “pavement”), and heat rises, you may want to exercise caution if you have a very large bed. With more area to reflect the heat, plants that are heat sensitive, particularly those with larger leaves and those that prefer “part shade”, may fry in these conditions. You can counter this by placing inorganic mulch, such as landscaping stones, or a lighter colored wood mulch around these sensitive plants.
In determining which color mulch to use another factor to consider are the types of plants that you’ll be putting in. For example, if you use bright red mulch and then plant “showy” flowers, people will notice the mulch and not the flowers. On the other hand, if you have taller evergreens, red mulch at their base will create a visual anchor and help provide a sense of balance.
How Much to Apply?
The more compact and less porous a mulch is, the less you’ll need to use of it. Double ground hardwood bark mulch should be applied 2-3” deep. Larger, less compact mulch can be applied an inch or two deeper. If you apply mulch too deeply you can actually suffocate a plant by not allowing an adequate gas exchange between the soil and the air.
When using landscaping stones you’ll want to ensure that you have adequate coverage so that you don’t see the landscaping fabric or ground beneath it. To do this, take the average size of the stone and multiply that number by 1.5 for minimum coverage on small stones or by 2 for larger stones.
Bagged versus Bulk Mulch:
Bagged mulch is available at countless locations throughout the area. It is easy to transport and works well if you only need a small amount. However, if you have a large area to cover it can be quite costly. Bulk mulch, which is often sold by the cubic yard, can cost less than half as much as bagged mulch. A recent ad for a local do-it-yourself center featured a 2 cubic foot bag of red or black color enhanced Scotts Nature Scapes® wood mulch for $4.97 a bag. Since it takes 13.5 of the 2 cubic foot bags (or 9 of the 3 cubic foot bags) to equal one cubic yard of mulch, a $4.97 bag equates to $67.10 per cubic yard. For comparison purposes, Black Gold, sells one cubic yard of color-enhanced mulch for $34. That’s a savings of $33.10 per cubic yard. Since wood mulch is relatively safe to load and is lightweight, it can be easily transported in pickup trucks and utility trailers. If you need more than a couple of yards or don’t have access to a pickup truck, Black Gold offers delivery for an additional fee. Depending on how much mulch you need, the amount that you save buying the mulch in bulk form rather than by the bag can be more than enough to pay for the delivery service. If you’re buying inorganic mulch such as landscaping stones, bear in mind that they can be quite heavy (reducing the amount, you can carry in a pickup truck or utility trailer) and they can bounce when they’re being loaded onto your truck, which could damage your paint or windows. For this reason, delivery is often a safer and more cost-effective option.
Double Ground Hardwood Bark Mulch:
Black Gold’s Double Ground Hardwood Bark Mulch is produced locally in the Twin Tiers from the bark of hardwood trees. Due to its darker color and fine grind, when viewed from a distance this mulch has more the appearance of rich, dark earthy soil than many of our other mulches or commercially sold pine-bark nuggets. Its natural appearance, price and ease of use make this our top-selling mulch among professional landscapers. Generally, due to its chemical composition, bark mulch is slow to deteriorate. However, since it is double ground it will decompose faster than large bark nuggets and slightly faster than single ground mixed-wood mulch. You may think that this means it will cost more money over time, but since its fine grind allows it to compact more than single ground mulch or nuggets you can use less of it to achieve the same amount of water retention and weed inhibiting factors.
Fine Natural Mulch:
Black Gold's Fine Natural Mulch is manufactured on the premises from organic waste (e.g. tree limbs and branches) that has been dropped off by municipalities, area residents, and landscapers. This dye-free organic mulch is finely ground, has good compaction, and will immediately begin to feed the soil while inhibiting weed growth and retaining moisture. It has a rich earthy color, and appears quite dark when it is wet.
This double ground mulch is cinnamon-red to brown in color, and we highly recommend it for people with seasonal allergies as Eastern Hemlock allegedly causes no allergic reaction. In fact, one of our employees swears by it--"I can play in this mulch all day and no sneezing, watery eyes, anything!" Hemlock mulch is slow to decompose and has a very nice aroma.Hemlock mulch is on the acidic side, so use care when using around plants that prefer alkaline soil.
Light Bark Mulch:
All natural, dye-free hardwood bark mulch, with a lighter color and coarser texture than our double ground hardwood bark mulch. This mulch is manufactured on the premises.
Natural Economy Mulch:
Black Gold's Natural Economy Mulch is manufactured on the premises from organic waste (e.g. tree limbs and branches) that has been dropped off by municipalities, area residents, and landscapers. This dye-free organic mulch is very coarsely ground, with some wood pieces up to 3-4" long. There may also be some stones within the mulch.This product is well suited to large applications where the benefits of organic mulch and low cost are the primary concerns, and the appearance is of secondary concern.
Color Enhanced Mulch:
All of Black Gold’s color-enhanced mulch is produced locally in the Twin Tiers. The mulch, which is made from a variety of wood, is ground and an organic dye is added to produce a uniform color. While all mulch fades with time we have found that the mulch from this manufacturer holds its color exceptionally well and the product is very consistent in color and quality. Currently we have color-enhanced mulch available in brown, black and red. While the photos may help you determine which mulch you prefer, we recommend stopping by the information booth located at the entrance to our Big Flats location to view actual samples of our products. The information booth is accessible 24/7 and there are small poly-bags if you would like to take a small sample home with you.
To help you envision the color of our black mulch imagine taking a black permanent marker to a 2x4. The color is a flat black. The finished product is darker and coarser than our Double Ground Hardwood Bark Mulch.
Our color-enhanced brown mulch may be described as a “chocolate brown”. The finished product is coarser, but somewhat similar in color to our Double Ground Hardwood Bark Mulch.
Just because some mulch is red in color does not mean that it is made from cedar. To the best of our knowledge the only cedar mulch that is available in our area is sold in bagged form and is generally shipped in from Canada. Our red mulch is made from a variety of wood. The uniform color is due to the organic dye that was used to enhance its color
Our Playground Chips are available in two styles, ground or chipped. The ones that have been run through the grinder will tend to be a little finer in texture and smaller in size than the ones that have been run through the chipper.
• Dye free.
• Initially the color of a 2x4, the color will “gray down” after it’s exposed to the elements.
We have not had our playground chips officially certified for playground use (certification may be required for school playgrounds, community playgrounds and certain other applications).
• Won’t heat up or stain clothing like some rubber mulch can – and unlike rubber there’s no disposal fee – it decomposes naturally
• The higher the potential fall and larger the child, the deeper you should apply the mulch
Mold and fungus like dark, moist conditions. You may notice some mold and/or fungus growing on your mulch. This is a natural and common occurrence with most mulch. If you have allergies or simply don’t like the appearance of the mold you can alleviate it by turning the mulch to expose the mold to sunlight, and/or spray the mold with a 10% solution of bleach to water.
Organic Mulch is filled with microorganisms that are hard at work breaking down the mulch. Every time that you move mulch around you are stimulating these microorganisms. The more these microorganisms are stimulated, the more heat they will give off. When applying mulch it is advisable to keep it a slight distance away from young, tender plants for a day or two to allow the mulch to cool, and then gently move it around the base of the plants. Because of the amount of heat these microorganisms can create place your newly purchased mulch on a driveway or barren area rather than on your lawn. That way it won’t burn your grass between the time you get it and have a chance to place it in your flower beds, etc.
To determine how much mulch you need please go to How Do I Know How Much I Need?
For More Information:
If you would you like more information about mulch please feel free to call or stop by Black Gold located at 119B South Corning Road, near the intersection of Route 352 and County Route 10 (River Road/S. Corning Rd.) in Big Flats. (607) 562-7026.