This is a tip for everyone who wants to make their landscape look better but don’t have the time or money to do a lot: add mulch. Here is one situation where I used this tactic.

The front of this condo complex could no longer be irrigated due to problems with the irrigation system. The grass was dying, although most of the trees in the strip were doing fine. With little in the budget, the solution was to simply kill off any remaining grass and add mulch. The total cost of the project was $500, far less than re-landscaping the area.

The great thing about mulching is it allows for future changes and the gradual addition of plants. The most common solution I see here for cheap landscaping is lawn. Seeding a lawn can be dirt cheap. In the long run, however, the landscape looks boring, the lawn eats up plenty of maintenance time, chemicals and water, and can end up costing quite a bit if you start calculating in all the cost of materials you stick on it.  I think laying out proper planting beds and simply mulching is a much better short term fix and it leads to a better long term solution.

I did a garden design for another client who lacked the several thousand dollars to put it in. The plan turned into redesigning the beds, irrigation system and going ahead with the lawn, but waiting on the other large area of mixed planting. That area will be put in gradually. By mulching the area at the beginning of the project it still looks nice and it will be easy to add the variety of shrubs and perennials over the next few years.

Plants are wonderful, but they can often be fairly expensive. Don’t just turn the landscape over to cheap lawn or leave ugly dirt and weed showing: maintain the areas you want for mixed planting beds, mulch them, and than add plants as budget and times allows.

Maintenance on a mulch-only area is simple: hand pull or spray out the weeds. If the mulch is deep enough, there won’t be very many. Wood/bark chips and rocks/gravel are the most common types of mulch and both work fine. Pick whichever look you like best and fits with long term goal of the landscape. Buying mulch in bags gets expensive quickly. Bulk mulch is far cheaper, and is often worth the cost of delivery if you don’t have a truck. (You often need more mulch than you think. For instance, a rear border of about 5 feet deep in a small yard will need around 5 cubic yards of mulch, or 5 truckloads. There’s plenty of good calculators out there to figure out how much mulch you actually need…but basically it’s just a matter of geometry.) Mulch should be put on to a depth of two inches. It will also need to be replenished occasionally ( every 1-5 years for organic mulch/bark chips).

Mulch has the benefits of keeping down weeds; maintaining even soil moisture; decreasing soil temperature; preventing compaction, soil splashing and soil crusting; and adding organic matter into the soil (if you use an organic mulch).  Mulch is a great solution to tons of landscaping problems. Use it.


One thought on “Mulch

Comments are closed.