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Spring is Time to Mulch Your Gardens and Take Care of Your Lawn

by and on April 11, 2013 4:28 PM

Now may be a great time to plan gardening projects for the summer, according to local experts who offer a wealth of advice and recommendations on avoiding summer lawn stress with proper landscaping.

“It’s impossible to landscape with mulch and trees while there is snow on the ground,” said Max Peachey, wholesale mulch sales supervisor at Metzler Forest Products LLC.

When it comes to choosing mulch, Peachey recommends a high percentage of bark.

“The higher the bark content, the better the mulch,” he said. “With a high bark content, the chances of artillery spore fungus will be less. Mulches such as Hemlock bark are excellent for avoiding artillery spore fungus and are … good for your soil.”

Peachey said mulch, just like paint, should have adequate time to dry after it is laid. This allows the color to remain vibrant for a longer period of time, he said, regardless of whether the mulch is color-enhanced or natural.

For planting flower beds, Peachey doesn’t recommend placing mulch against small flowers and plants because it can burn them. He said the best time to start planting flower beds is after the last frost of the season.

“Make sure that plants are planted below the topsoil line and not in the mulch,” he said. “It can be beneficial to mix compost with your topsoil before planting and mulching. This boosts growth and adds nutritional value to your flowerbeds.”

Derec Markle, agronomist at Yoder Mountain Conservation Co. in Boalsburg, said the best way to plan for summer landscaping is to prioritize what’s important personally, and then examine the budget.

“Failing to plan equals failure,” he said. “I tend to examine what, if anything, went wrong last summer by reviewing past notes. Then (I) investigate any problems or potential problems like drainage, future growth of plants that may outgrow their location (and) dividing plants.”

Markle said what can be accomplished is cutting back perennials or ornamental grasses. Next, he said, would be selective pruning of trees or shrubs that need thinning out.

Markle’s recommendations for mulch is double ground hardwood bark mulch, as it helps with weed suppression, moisture retention, temperature control, and aids in the aesthetics of the bed by providing a “media that resembles nature.”

“Mulches can be somewhat different in color, texture and wood content,” Markle said. “Hardwood bulk mulch is not ground-up pallets, and (is) best used for planting beds. Wood chips that are bark-free are best used in play areas. They are cleaner and softer in texture.”

The process of putting down mulch involves many steps, Markle said.

“Typically the beds are weeded several days prior to installation; the use of glyphosate (round-up) is a good product to control actively growing weeds,” he said.

The next step is the edging of beds for a defined border, Markle said. This can be done with a shovel or power edger.

“You may need to remove excess mulch from years past,” he said. “Don’t put 3 inches on top of 4 inches. A consistent 3 to 4 inches is plenty.”

After the beds have been prepared, the mulch can be applied with a pitchfork 3 to 4 inches deep or as needed, Markle said.

“Leave mulch off the plants by feathering the material about an inch deep near the base of the plant,” he said. “Over-mulching creates a habitat for insects.”

Another method to consider is topdressing, Markle said, which involves the application of compost, soil or sand over the surface of turf grass.

“This practice helps turf in many ways,” he said.

Topsoil is living, so it contains billions of microorganisms and insects that help enrich the soul by converting detritus into organic topsoil, Markle said.

“Our lawns are void of these materials as we rake the leaves off every fall,” he said. “Adding compost helps build the soil’s profile, increase its water holding capacity... and reduce the amount of fertilizer that’s needed.”

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Staff Writer at The Centre County Gazette
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