Silver and Gold Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 14 HOUSE + HOME ‘MULCH’ OF IT IS GARBAGE – By Brandon M. Gelderman When you walk into a forest below a large tree you will find a soil. Then define the cut a new garden bed edge, clear soil away bed of mulch. This layer of mulch will consist of broken branches from the tree, bark, leaves that have fallen, and insects which are slowly helping the components decompose over time. The process of turning trees and bark into mulch is chipping the wood into smaller sizes and laying it in a garden, similar to a forest. Then we go into the city and suburbs where people enjoy installing mulch in their gardens for curb appeal, protection of plants and moisture retention. Many people like soil around the plants, which needs to be cultivated weekly, and other people like mulch in the gardens. Adding soil in the gardens is good every few years, as tree and shrub roots start to appear and some nutrient soil helps assure the health of your plants. Another option is to add mulch. The process of adding mulch is not very difficult: First, pull all the weeds in the garden and cultivate the existing from sidewalks, brick and window wells. Prune plants that need a trim. Finally, neatly rake the garden smooth and sweet off patios and driveway. You are now ready to install mulch into the garden. The best thickness for mulch is 3” to 4” inches. (Some people install landscape fabric/filter cloth and then 1” of mulch… this is asking for weeds to start growing even through the fabric). It is less time consuming to layer the mulch on thicker, and save time cutting the fabric around the plants – and being discouraged when the weeds start to grow. Newspaper can be used before mulching, another very time consuming installation process and a lot a reading material. When you install mulch around plants don’t go any closer than 2” to 4” inches around the base of perennials, shrubs and trees. Uncover branches if they end up getting covered by mulch, because this will cause the lower branches of trees and shrubs to die. Unfortunately when the mulch is pushed right up against the bark similar to the “volcano effect,” it will cause the roots to wrap around the base of the tree and over time choke out the tree and cause rot on the bark, which will slowly kill the tree. Which type of mulch to choose? There are dyed colours and there is natural. Some obvious trendy mulches are black and red; they are a mystery of woods used and the dye gets all over your hands, clothes, driveways and walkways – and it goes mouldy. After a few years, much of it remains in the garden which is a true mystery. My favourite are natural mulches like pine, cedar or hemlock, which break down over time and are very good for the surrounding plants, as you’re adding organic material. Compost bin waste, mushroom compost, grass clippings, leaves and other organic matter can also be used as mulch in the garden. Mulching must be done on a yearly or bi-yearly occurrence for best results. A great time to apply the mulch is just before winter after the fall clean-up has been done, to protect the plants and retain moisture over the winter months, and add interest to the garden. Another great time to apply mulch is in spring after the spring clean-up has been completed. Do you have garden questions? Need help planning? Contact me and let’s enjoy happy gardening year-round! • Brandon M. Gelderman is a landscape designer and founder of Gelderlands Inc. in Burlington. 905-637-1509 14 More articles, recipes & events online: