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Mulch can be a gardener’s best friend. Most gardeners agree that mulch makes any garden look better by adding visual appeal. It also provides many benefits to the plants.
Mulch is a form of ground covering and is used around trees and shrubs, along either side of the driveway, around the house foundation, under hedges, in vegetable and cutting gardens or anywhere that you want to cover bare earth. From a design standpoint, mulch adds continuity to landscape beds within the yard, helps to make a newly planted gardens look fuller, and softens the line between garden and grass.
But mulch is far more than just a pretty ground covering. It’s a real garden workhorse! Mulch deflects the sun and keeps moisture in the ground, keeping the soil cooler in the summer. During the winter months, mulch acts like a big, warm blanket insulating the earth and plant roots. Because mulch is organic, it will naturally break down and decompose over time. This creates wonderful compost, which adds nutrients to the soil. Rich soil attracts earthworms, which help to further enrich the soil. Finally, mulch helps to keep down weeds and unwanted grass.
Check out the video below to see a garden wall and mulch job that we designed and installed:
Because there are so many different mulch products available, it is difficult to know which ones are the best. Basically, there are three types of mulch: plastic mulch, real mulch, and stone mulch.
Plastic mulch usually comes on a roll and is sold as "landscape fabric" or "plastic weed barrier." Because it is made from plastics and is not organic, it does not provide nutritional benefits and is not necessarily environmentally correct. Plastic mulch provides an effective weed barrier, however.
Nonporous sheets of black plastic are not recommended for use in the garden. While they are very effective at keeping weeds from coming up, they do not allow water to penetrate through to the plant roots.
Porous landscape fabrics allow rainwater to penetrate the soil. They work fairly well at keeping the weeds at bay. Landscape fabric is terrific to put down before installing a brick or stone patio or walk, under driveway stone, and under mulched paths and play areas.
At Kingdom Landscaping, we do not recommend using weed barrier fabric underneath landscape planting beds, because as the mulch decomposes on top of the fabric, the weeds will grow in the decomposed mulch.
Organic mulch is the best because it is lovely in the garden and is also functional. Although it decomposes quite rapidly and needs to be replenished often (about every season), it is this very decomposition that adds nitrogen to the soil and improves its structure.
At Kingdom Landscaping, we sell and install organic, double-shredded mulch that comes from Hollins Organic Products in Baltimore, Maryland. This excellent mulch product is color-enhanced in black or dark brown.
We recommend shredded hardwood mulch for all planting areas. This mulch is made from shredded bark and has a good brown color – like dirt. We prefer shredded bark (vs. bark chips and nuggets) because it breaks down more quickly and improves our area’s infamous hard clay soil. If you prefer the look of chips or nuggets, spread the shredded mulch down first and then cover it with a layer of decorative mulch.
Wood chips can also be used as mulch. While wood chips are less expensive than bark mulch and can often be obtained for free, it is not nearly as attractive. Bark tends to have a yellowish color which looks unnatural in the landscape. Wood chips are a good, economical cover for large vegetable and cutting gardens, play areas, and paths.
Do not use freshly ground wood chip mulch around any plants until it has had an opportunity to age (usually 8-12 months). Fresh wood chips rob the plants of nitrogen which often results in the death of plants.
While bark mulch is the most common real mulch, some gardeners use salt hay, pine needles, coco beans, and even peanut shells, sawdust, seaweed, buckwheat hulls and cranberry vine!
To be honest with you, I don’t ever consider stone as a type of mulch, per se. I consider stone to be a ground covering. Gardeners who either dislike the appearance of bark mulch or who are making a specific design statement often use stone instead of mulch. While stones do cover the soil and provide a bit of weed control, they do not improve the soil. Stone mulch, especially river rocks, can add beautiful color and interest to a garden. However, it is difficult to create a design incorporating white marble chips without making the garden look like a fast-food restaurant. White stones can also reflect heat onto surrounding plants, causing sun scorch. In general, stone is expensive and difficult to work with. If you choose stone, we recommend always using a weed barrier plastic or fabric underneath stone.
Too much of a good thing?
While spreading real mulch is one of the best things a gardener can do to benefit plants, piling up too much mulch can end up killing plants. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when mulching:
- Never use more than 3" of mulch around trees and shrubs. Thick layers of mulch will obstruct root development.
- If the mulch in the garden has turned into an impenetrable hard mat, there is too much mulch built up. You will need to either remove the mat layer or break it up with a garden fork.
- If mulch is piled up next to the trunk of a tree, it will soften and rot the tree bark creating easy access to disease and insects.
- If there is too much mulch in the garden, remove the old mulch before adding new. Old mulch can be added to the compost pile or worked into new garden beds.
What is that disgusting stuff?
Because real mulch is organic, it will break down and decompose, creating rich garden soil. Rich soil combined with lots of warm, rainy weather is an environment that may breed fungus. There is one particularly disgusting fungus that looks, quite frankly, like yellow/orange vomit. While it looks awful, it is completely harmless. It can be removed with a shovel or it can be left to disappear on its own.
How much mulch do I need?
Good question. Here’s the solution: Use the chart below. Begin by selecting your required mulching depth in one of the first three columns. Within that column, select the square footage that is the nearest match to, but at least as much as, the area you will be mulching. Then simply follow that row across to determine how many cubic yards (if you're buying in bulk) you will need.
Mulch Application Chart
|Square Feet||Cubic Yards|
|1" Deep||2" Deep||3" Deep|
Place an Order
Give us a call to check our availability. Organic double-shredded mulch dyed black or brown is delivered to our facility by the tractor-trailer load beginning in March each season. Depending on the demand, our inventory begins to run low in June, and we may or may not reorder.
You can come to our shop and have the mulch loaded onto your pickup truck, if desired. Please call ahead to make sure someone is onsite to load it for you. Otherwise, we would be happy to deliver the mulch directly to your home.
$32.00 per cubic yard + tax (full cubic yard – not a scoop)
Delivery is available from a small one-cubic yard load to a full 50-cubic yard tractor-trailer load. Due to rising fuel costs, we had to increase our delivery fees.
- $10 – Cascade, Sabillasville, Smithsburg, Wolfsville, Blue Ridge Summit
- $25 – Thurmont, Emmitsburg, Leitersburg, East Hagerstown, Rouzerville
- $35 – Hagerstown, Myersville, Boonsboro, Maugansville, Williamsport, Waynesboro
- $45 – Frederick, Middletown, Sharpsburg, Walkersville, Greencastle
- $55 – New Market, Urbana, Ijamsville, West Virginia
Please call for current delivery fees outside of the areas listed above and for large quantity (tractor-trailer) pricing. Landscape Contractor’s discount available.
Mulch Installation Services
We offer professional mulch installation services at the following rates:
- Mulch Installation: $70 per cubic yard (includes mulch, delivery fee, and labor)
- Weeding: $65 per manhour (one hour minimum charge)
- Bed Edging: $125 and up (depends on how many linear feet of landscape beds; minimum charge for machine and operator is $125; includes cleaning up debris)