Mulch Madness – A Guide to Mulch

Mulch Madness – A Guide to Mulch

Key Benefits, Types, and Methods of Using Mulch in California Landscapes

It’s almost insane how many ways mulching adds to the success of California landscapes. It is easily one of the most useful practices one can do in the garden. Mulching is a great way to control weeds, retain moisture and protect your soil. It also hides and protects drip lines, keeps dust down, provides a safe, relatively clean walking surface, and looks better than bare ground. Mulches can prevent erosion on slopes, and organic mulches improve soil structure.

Saves Time and Money

One of the most important benefits of mulching is it saves time and money! By reducing weeds, especially annuals, by up to 90%, landscaping labor costs are reduced significantly. Mulching can reduce or even eliminate the need for costly and toxic herbicides. And mulch can significantly conserve soil moisture, reducing the cost of irrigation. Many California Coast gardens use surface-mounted drip irrigation and mulching serves to visually cover up and protect drip lines, which are vulnerable to damage and weathering, thus saving on costs to repair or replace.

Promotes Healthy Landscapes

Mulching promotes healthy plants and garden areas by reducing competition from weeds by preventing their germination. The decomposition of mulch also adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down, improving soil by adding organic matter that feeds beneficial organisms. Mulching reduces soil compaction and insulates plants against temperature extremes. A 2-inch mulch layer can cut summer soil evaporation by 20% and lower temperatures in the top 4 inches of soil by 10 degrees. There is a notable improvement in establishing young plants and trees when mulch is used.

Reduces Soil Erosion

Another benefit of mulch is how it reduces soil erosion. Covering the soil simply helps keep soil in place when exposed to rain and wind. This is especially true on slopes, by deflecting the impact of raindrops, which in turn reduces stormwater runoff and creek erosion.

It Just Looks Good

Mulch is often the finishing touch for planting areas. In addition to the functional benefits, it just looks good! A clean, uniform mulch layer helps to really tie the garden together.

Mulching with a Multitude of Materials

There are a wide variety of materials that can be used for mulching. The style and design of your individual garden or landscape will inform as to which types might be best for you. Bark and wood products are the most common types of mulches on the Central Coast. But there are many others, such as stone – from colorful rocks and boulders down to a wide variety of gravel and even decomposed granite. An under-layer of sheet mulching can be employed using newspapers, cardboard and even plastic sheeting. Living mulches (e.g. Dutch white clover) are cover crops planted around crops or between crop rows, adding nitrogen to the soil while discouraging noxious weeds.

We want to call attention to Recycled Organic Mulches. These can include chipped or shredded wood chips, compost, simple fallen leaves or pine needles, or even grass clippings. We also favor chipper mulch from local tree trimming operations. Our endorsement of these recycled materials stems from the fact that these materials are not only potentially an attractive ground cover and mulch, but they are by-products that don’t have to be shipped long distances, and mulching with them contributes to maintaining their usefulness in another form (good for sustainability).

Consider Flammability

With all the benefits of mulching, also comes an issue of organic mulch’s combustibility and wildfire safety. In areas of many California communities, there is a real need to consider how to reduce hazardous conditions, and how mulching can play a useful role and not contribute to wildfire danger.

An in-depth study conducted at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension of landscape mulch types analyzed their relative combustibility, flame height, rate of spread, and temperatures. They demonstrated a wide range of variability in mulch type combustibility, suggesting the need to consider flammability when choosing mulches. In general, it is obvious that the least flammable mulch types should be used closest to vulnerable homes and structures, and the study recommends “not using any organic mulch within five feet of a house located in wildfire-prone areas.”

How Much Mulch?

Planting areas should be mulched as needed to maintain a 2- to 4-inch layer. Plan on refreshing your mulched areas periodically. An annual inspection usually keeps you apprised of how often additional mulching is needed. Keep mulch at least two to three inches away from the stems and trunks of plants to avoid moisture-related fungus and bacteria problems. When mulching individual trees planted in lawns, create a circle of mulch about 2 feet in diameter for each inch of trunk diameter, even out to the edge of the canopy of mature trees if possible. If irrigating mulched areas with overhead irrigation, make sure that the water penetrates the mulch layer. Mulch can absorb the water and prevent its ever reaching soil.

We Love Mulch!

Mulching covers and cools the soil, conserves moisture, suppresses weed growth, slows erosion and adds nutrients as it decomposes. It also hides and protects drip lines. Plus, it looks good. What’s not to love?

On the Boards: Mediterranean Labyrinth Garden

On the Boards: Mediterranean Labyrinth Garden

This lush residential garden, located in Grover Beach, incorporates many curves and circles by using massive earthwork and retaining walls. Built on a complex and challenging sand slope, the landscape maximizes every square foot with artistic and intriguing aesthetics. Edible food forests, colorful Mediterranean displays, dry creek beds, and even a golf green bring this design into vibrancy, with new irrigation and a high-volume drainage system to keep the entire property functioning well. Three labyrinth designs are incorporated into the pathways; meandering paths to different areas provide a feeling of exploration and discovery. After extensive work and focused creativity, this inspiring space qualifies as a proper oasis.

Partner Profile: SiteOne Landscape Supply

Partner Profile: SiteOne Landscape Supply

This is a state-of-the-art irrigation valve manifold installation for Hotel SLO to supply irrigation for planters on 5 levels from ground level to balconies to roof.

Evan Moffitt

Evan Moffitt, CLT, CLIA, PCA, at SiteOne Landscape Supply, has been working with Madrone for over four years, delivering everything from irrigation and pavers to lighting. Evan and SiteOne are reliable partners for anything we might need for our landscapes, assisting us on over one hundred projects for varying clients and spaces.

SiteOne offers a comprehensive selection of top-brand landscape supplies, from irrigation to lighting, throughout North America. “We carry nearly everything Madrone would need, so its about getting what they want,” said Evan. After so long working together, we know exactly how they deliver, and they know what we order. Being able to count on their services has come as a huge boon time and time again.

When it comes to philosophies we share, we both work hard to deliver our services on time, valuing urgency and good communication when it comes to others’ time and work. “We understand each other very well,” said Moffitt. “They have a great team culture. A lot of people there work well together, they have a great support and management team to get the projects done, and they communicate well.”

While SiteOne doesn’t always have the opportunity to get out to the site and see the results of their reliable supply, we know our work benefits majorly from their ethics and consistency. We’re grateful for the many years we’ve worked together to develop landscapes of which we’re proud.

 

Hotel SLO’s planters, on 5 levels from ground level to balconies to roof, are supplied irrigation by a state-of-the-art irrigation valve manifold. See above.

On the Boards: Atascadero Rustic Modern

On the Boards: Atascadero Rustic Modern

With five acres of beautiful blank canvas, this private residential landscape presents an expansive front yard and a nestled tier design, providing a balance to the home’s modern architecture and the surrounding Atascadero hills.

Focusing on the acre immediately surrounding the home, Madrone created a grand main entrance and separate outdoor “rooms” with a cohesive rustic modern style. A main path leads to a wide staircase and covered patio, providing a majestic entry experience with magnificent views. Separate hot tub and fire pit areas rest below the main level, providing spaces for relaxing during the warm North County evenings. Around the back of the house, a private courtyard provides a more sheltered gathering space with outdoor kitchen, deck, and water feature, perfect for entertaining or simply enjoying a cup of coffee on a chilly Atascadero morning.

The plant palette, featuring Palo Verde trees and Agave, relies on textures and form to reveal the variety among the greens, yellows, blue-greens and whites. Modern elements such as straight lines, evenly spaced plants, concrete, and corten steel blend with natural materials such as gravel paths, boulders, and masses of flowing grasses to make each space separate and unique while still bringing everything together as a whole.

Celebrating Ten Years with Ramiro Hernandez

Celebrating Ten Years with Ramiro Hernandez

Ramiro “Romy” Hernandez is a driven leader and a skilled craftsman who aspires to get better at everything he does.

Romy has been a project manager at Madrone Landscapes for 10 years and had decades of landscape construction experience before Madrone.

He is always jovial and looking to make people smile with a joke or a compliment. Even while having fun on his job, his dedication to doing quality work and working efficiently goes down to the minute. “Almost doesn’t count” is his famous catchphrase, because he is not satisfied until the job is done and done well. He takes enormous pride in his work and great satisfaction from a happy client.

His crew leadership is a comradery that transforms a group of people into a single body working seamlessly to complete the job. Romy’s character, discipline, and leadership have always been impressive.

After ten years, we are so proud he is part of our Madrone Family!