Mulch 101

You've now built your garden, selected your plants and are ready for the finishing touch - mulch!  Spend a few minutes with WBTV meteorologist Jim Lytle and Mike Bishop from Blue Max Materials to discover the importance of mulching!

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Mulching your flower bed or vegetable garden is a critical part of the planting process.  Let's examine some of the reasons why.


... acts as an insulator for your plants' roots, keeping them cooler in the summer 
   and warmer in the winter.

... helps your soil retain moisture - especially important in our drought-stricken  

... reduces the growth of weeds (notice, we didn't say "prevents" weeds because
   wind-blown seeds can settle on the surface of your mulch and sprout).

... helps prevent soil erosion.

... reduces splash transmitted soil related diseases.

... adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes (this depends on the type of mulch

... looks great!

All right, so we know mulching is essential, but what kind of mulch is best?  There is no one answer to this question - personal preferences play a role in choosing the look you want from your mulch.  That being said, there are some general characteristics to consider when buying mulch:

  1. look for "bark" mulch - mulch that consists of the bark of a tree as opposed to wood fibers from the center of the tree.  As we all know, bark is the protective coating of the tree that helps it ward off insects and disease, whereas the wood fibers are what insects like termites like to eat.  Which do you want in your yard?
  2. understand what you're getting when you use mulch from a construction site or yard clean-up (as opposed to a saw mill where you get bark mulch) - construction debris can, and usually will, have all kinds of things mixed in it.  This includes ingredients such as all parts of chopped up trees or shrubs (bark and wood fibers), seeds, possible insects or infestations, and poison ivy/oak.  While this may not be a bad choice for a large natural area, you may want to think twice about putting it in a flower or vegetable garden or near your home.
  3. purchase from a reputable supplier - believe it or not, there is an exact science to processing mulch that takes into account such things as the temperature and age of the bark.  Mulch contains millions of living organisms that are constantly in motion in the decomposing process; the friction from this motion is what causes you to see "smoke" coming from a pile of mulch in cold weather!  Putting mulch that is not aged properly around fresh plants can cause them to "burn" in the harsh sun.

A favorite mulch of landscapers and contractors in the Charlotte area is Double Hammered Hardwood Mulch.  It offers a dark, rich color, excellent erosion control and moisture retention, and excels as a soil enrichment!

Double Hammered Hardwood Mulch in front garden bed.

Once you've selected your mulch, you need to know that this is not a situation where "more is better"!  A 3" layer of mulch is just right; even if you are just freshening an existing layer of mulch, don't put down more than 3" total.  (A thicker layer inhibits moisture and air from reaching roots.)  You especially don't want to pile mulch up against the base of trees; this action causes the bark to rot, weakening the tree's immune system as well as preventing water and air from reaching the roots.

For more information on mulches, visit