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Cool Your Roots With Mulch

Mulch provides your landscape plants with many benefits. The most obvious is the finished look it gives your landscape. Its most important benefits, however, occur below ground.

Mulch retains moisture and releases it over time, and it also moderates soil temperatures. These are important considerations this summer. Remember the prediction that this will be a hot, dry summer. That prediction began to play out even before summer officially started. We had a 90º day in May and two in June right before the Summer Solstice. We’ve also had very little rainfall in June.

Wood mulch acts like insulation or a heat sink. By spreading it loosely on the soil surface, the many voids between the wood chips and fibers trap heat before it can be absorbed by the soil. The mulch then releases the heat back into the atmosphere and into the soil much slower than the soil would absorb it without mulch.

When it does rain or you irrigate, mulch will absorb water and then release it into the soil over time. This is important in heavy rains. Much of the rain falling directly on bare, dry soil in hot weather will either evaporate or run off before it can be absorbed by the soil and benefit plant roots.

I recommend wood mulch for several reasons. First, it’s biodegradable; as it decomposes over time, essential nutrients are returned to the soil. Non organic mulches don’t degrade. Second, it benefits the environment. The raw material is wood we prune from trees. That waste would go into a landfill if we didn’t recycle it.

Mulch should be spread 2 to 3 inches thick and level. Don’t let the mulch touch the plant stem; pull it back an inch or two from plants. Resist the temptation to pile it up against tree trunks into mulch volcanoes. This practice can kill the trees.

I don’t recommend colored mulch. The color is simply a dye that’s added. The color of the mulch doesn’t affect its decomposition rate or the return of nutrients to the soil. However, you can get the dye on your shoes and it can leach on to sidewalks, patios and driveways. That’s why we use only natural brown hardwood mulch.

We can bring bulk mulch to your home and dump it in the driveway for you to spread, or one of our landscape crews will be happy to spread it for you. Either way, do consider keeping your plant roots cool this summer because it’s apt to be a hot one.

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