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Close to home with Mary Beth Breckenridge

Stop the mulch madness!

By Mary Beth Breckenridge Published: April 18, 2014

A friend of mine last night was bemoaning the eagerness of the groundskeepers at her condominium complex.

It seems they'd already started applying fresh mulch to the landscaping beds, burying her daffodils that had drooped and flattened in the recent cold snap.

She’s right. It’s too early to mulch. And those devastated daffodils aren't the only reason.

Mulch acts as an insulator, slowing the warming and drying of soil in the spring. If you add mulch now, you can slow plants’ root growth and smother some perennials that put up shoots that aren’t strong enough to push through the mulch layer.

Better to wait till at least May – or even June, given the cool spring we’ve had.

When and if you do mulch, do it right. Don’t overdo it: 2 to 2.5 inches total is enough, and that depth includes any old mulch remaining from last year. Fluff the old mulch with a rake before you add more to prevent the formation of a crust that repels water.

And please avoid one of my pet peeves, piling mulch up against the trunks of trees or shrubs like a volcano. That keeps the trunk moist, possibly causing damage and inviting disease. Instead, leave about 6 inches between trunk and the mulch.

 

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