Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tips for applying mulch

"Beautiful! Glorious! Delicious!," my plants cry out. 

You know you are a real gardener when just thinking of rotting plant & animal material gives you excited butterflies in your stomach... as opposed to the queasiness that most people feel in their stomachs.

 We had our 3 yards of mushroom compost delivered last week and as I began filling my first wheelbarrow full, I thought about the mulching techniques I have learned from many & various gardeners over the past 8 years...

What I have learned so far...

1. This is a lot of work!  So make it count for double the time & money: add nutrients while you mulch.  Instead of using those beautiful large bark chips (which actually have the gall to steal nitrogen away from your plants!), use something rich in nutrients, like mushroom compost or well-rotted leaf and grass litter.

2. Apply it 2-3 inches deep to suppress weeds for the growing season.  You still may get some, but usually they are easier to pull out of the loose mulch than the firm soil.

3.  Make sure to leave your plants some wiggle room.  Apply the mulch deeply, but leave it at least one inch away from the crown of the plant.  Leave 2-3 inches of space all around tree trunks. In the book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden, author Tracy DiSabato-Aust says that most of us are mulching our plants to death!  So remember to leave them some room to breath.


4.  Do not apply hot compost (meaning mushroom compost or other nutrient rich sources) to woodland (e.g. ferns) or silver-leaved plants (lavender), because they are not used to having that level of nitrogen shock.  Instead, use leaf litter for the woodland.  In a column written for The English Garden, Joe Reardon-Smith from Parham House suggested that lavender do not need more than the few goat dropping a year that they usually receive in their natural habitat.

Any more tips from my fellow gardeners? 

I am always ready to learn more.  Learning has been one of the driving forces behind my gardening.  That and the need for Beauty!


  1. I never had so much mulch to handle... the plants would love such material for eventual nutrients.

  2. When I lived in PA, were used to get free mushroom compost. It was a barter system where we gave them our horse manure. Great soil amendments and top dressing.

  3. Look at the heart waves coming off the compost...great tips to remember if I ever get around to mulching this little time and the weather has me weeks behind in just routine garden chores like clean up and weeding...

  4. Good post! Mulch is super important for my garden and I'm always struggling to understand it better.

  5. Your garden will be jumping for joy and your plants will rejoice by the arrival of the new mulch!

  6. Mulch, loverly mulch:)
    Loved being at your house today.
    Can't wait to see more of your garden!!!!

  7. Mmmm... wish I had all that! I have not mulched (yet) this year. The year is flying by faster than I can get it all done!

  8. Thanks for this - I've always had the mulch put down for me but considering "doing it myself" next time. I think I should give it a go.

  9. Good post, that mulch looks really great. I hope your plants grow and bloom even better this year!

  10. My husband and I plan to add mulch to our yard this year. It's the best way to add nutrients to your soil. My husband calls it "black gold." Thanks for the tutorial.

  11. Mushroom compost: Looks great, works great - and the smell fades after a few days... =D

  12. Mushroom compost - fantastic stuff! Good tips - I didn't know that about lavender.

  13. My mother asked if I could find a resource for free mushroom compost--she overheard about someone who got free mushroom compost delivered so she wants me to find out the low down via the net. We're in PA and she has a garden in the poconos and another in Montgomery County. Does anyone have any suggestions for such a resource? I'd appreciate any ideas. Thanks!


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