How to Mulch

Spreading mulch is an easy, cost-effective way to spruce things up around the outside of your home, adding color and depth around trees and in flower beds.

It does more than just look great in a landscape, though. Mulching also helps keep soil moist, regulate soil temperature, and keep weeds from growing by blocking their access to sunlight. (See this article for more on the benefits of mulching.)

When choosing the type of mulch to use, think about the look you want to achieve. For a clean, well-manicured look, try an extra-fine shred like Scotts® Nature Scapes® Triple Shred Mulch.

If you're looking to add a pop of color to the landscape, use a hued mulch like Scotts® Nature Scapes® Color Enhanced Mulch, which comes in red, black, and brown. Want a less structured look? Pine straw works well.Whichever kind of mulch you choose, before laying it down, you'll need to figure out how much mulch you need. For best results, mulch should be 2 to 3 inches deep, depending on the type. To come up with the total square footage, measure the areas where you plan to apply the mulch, then check the product label to see how many bags you'll need. For example, a 2-cubic-foot bag of Scotts® Nature Scapes® Color Enhanced Mulch will cover 8 square feet at a mulch depth of 3 inches. (How many pine straw bales you need depends on the size of the bales.) To get started, clear weeds and other debris from the area to be mulched. Check the back of the bag to see how many inches of mulch is ideal, then apply the mulch to the area and spread it with a garden rake to even it out. Make sure to leave a few inches of space between the mulch and the bases of trees, shrubs, and other plants. This will help both by improving water drainage and keeping insects or rodents from building their homes right next to the plants. If mulch is being spread around houses and decks, be sure to keep it away from the foundation and any wooden surfaces, for the same reasons.

Over time, natural mulches like bark and pine straw will begin to decompose. Keep an eye on the depth and add more mulch as needed. Also, make sure it isn't becoming too compacted; if so, gently break up the mulch to allow water and air to better travel through.

Mulching really is one of those gardening tasks that pays you back in the long run. A little effort up front means less work over the season so you can relax and enjoy your time outside.