USING ORGANIC MULCHES

By The Old House Web

USING ORGANIC MULCHES


When to Apply Mulch

Apply an organic mulch on most established ornamental plants in midspring when the soil has warmed sufficiently for active root growth. If applied before this time, the mulch will keep the ground cool and root growth of ornamental plants may be slow. Apply an organic mulch around newly set ornamental plants after they are put into place and thoroughly watered.

How Deep to Apply Organic Mulches

For best results, apply mulch at least 2 to 4 inches deep over the whole area during spring, summer and early fall but avoid covering the crowns of very low-growing ornamental plants. Tender ornamentals that need winter protection may require an additional 1 to 2 inches of mulch around the crowns or bases of the plants during the winter. In the spring, this added mulch should be fanned out or away from the stems or crowns of the plants before more material is added for a summer mulch.

Fertilizing Organically Mulched Plant Material

As indicated previously, mulching with many organic materials--including wood chips, sawdust, straw or shredded bark--means you must apply extra fertilizer around the plants to reduce the chance of nitrogen deficiency or starvation. Apply 1/4 pound of ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate for each bushel of mulch material used on the bed, or 2 pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer such as 5-10-5, 12-12-12 or similar analysis. This fertilizer should be applied before the mulch is placed on the soil, or in early spring before more material is added to plants already mulched. If the lower foliage yellows and the plants lack vigor during early summer, apply additional fertilizer.

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