It might seem like mulching your yard is an easy thing to do. All you have to do is shovel it, dump it over the area you intend to mulch, spread it out, and keep going. But there is actually much more to the process than you may have realized.
But when you mulch properly, you can set your garden or yard to grow the way that you want. It can result in a beautiful landscape, healthier plants than ever, and an overall better growing experience. Knowing how to properly mulch is the key.
Know How Much to Buy
Before you can worry about laying your mulch, you first need to know how much of it that you need to get the job done. You don’t want to get halfway through the job only to find out that you don’t have nearly enough mulch.
Conversely, you don’t want to come to the end and have a plethora of mulch left over.
So, how do you know how much to buy? There is actually a pretty average step to determine this: find out the total square footage of the area you intend to mulch and then multiply the length and width of that space.
To find the total square footage, you will need to count steps. The average step is around 2.5 feet in terms of length. So count out your steps to find the width and length of your yard space. Then multiply that to find your total square footage.
When you know the square footage, you will then need to determine how many bags (or scoops) of mulch that you will need to properly cover the space adequately. If you are looking for a 2-inch layer of mulch, you can divide by 12 for 2 cubic foot bags or 18 for 3 cubic foot bags. If you are dividing by scoops, divide by 128.
Know When to Lay Down Mulch
Mulching isn’t meant to be done randomly; there is a correct time and place to do it. There are two times per year where it is ideal to spread that mulch: spring and fall.
Putting down your mulch in the spring is helpful to your plants because those seasonal rains will help to break down your organic materials that the mulch possesses. This then penetrates the soil in a much more effective way and will give your landscaping that clean, fresh look all throughout the warmer months.
If you decide to lay down mulch in the fall, you get an extra layer of insulation when the colder months roll around. Many plants don’t do well with frost and that extra layer of mulch gives them the necessary insulation to survive the winter.
Whenever you do plan on mulching, you’ll want to plan for a time where the ground is totally thawed and moist. Also, choose a day following a rainy period. With the ground still moist, you will be able to seal some of that moisture into the mulch and benefit your plants.
When you have determined your mulching period and determined how much mulch you need to cover all of the areas of your yard effectively, it is then time to do the deed. Before you begin, you need the proper tools.
What You’ll Need
You will need a shovel or pitchfork if you have the mulch delivered to your home and it isn’t in a bag. This is so you can shove it into your wheelbarrow for easier transportation.
Which means you will also need a wheelbarrow to transport your mulch from place to place in an effective way that also won’t require serious heavy lifting.
Next is a rake. A bow rake is ideal for spreading the mulch because the tines are shorter but also stronger, more rigid, and designed to spread and break up material. You can get away with other rakes to get the job done without excessive lumps or bumps in your mulch.
Lastly, you’ll want to have gloves. Even if you don’t mind getting dirty, they will protect your hands when you are spreading your mulch around the plants and into the harder-to-reach areas of your garden beds.
It’s Time to Mulch
The first step is to clean out your garden beds. You will want to remove any dried up leaves, sticks, debris, and old mulch that you may have used in prior years. You might also want to take time to edge the beds as well to create a defined line between the lawn and your beds.
When you have done that, watering comes next. If there haven’t been rains recently, wet down the dry beds. This is so the mulch will be able to seal in some of the moisture from the watering.
If you are using a pre-emergent herbicide (these keep weeds from growing), this will be the time to implement those.
Speaking of those weeds, remove any that may be hanging around. One of the benefits to mulching is that it actually suppresses weeds from growing, so this will give you a quality head start and keep some of those nasty weeds from popping up.
Lastly, spread out your mulch. You will want to create small piles and then use a rake to do the general spreading and then finish things by using your hands. Using your hands means you get to get down to the exact depth that you want and keep the mulch evened out.
Ideally, you will spread the mulch to around two to four inches in thickness. If you spread it too thin, weeds will be able to poke through and you’ll have to pull them.
If you make your mulch too thick, it can actually keep water from reaching the soil. So, spread it smoothly and keep it within a designated depth.
Mulching can be great for your garden, but it has to be done right. Start strong and you will give your plants the kind of growth opportunity that they need.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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