Few and far between are the homeowners who have the time to cultivate a green thumb

Few and far between are the homeowners who have the time to cultivate a green thumb. Be it obligations at the office, full schedules with the family or, most likely, a little bit of both, many times homeowners are understandably quick to trust their landscaping to a local professional.
But in the harsh economy of the day, it can’t hurt for homeowners to have a little landscape knowledge of their own. In that case, should the purse strings need to be tightened a little bit, homeowners won’t watch their lawns wither under the harsh summer heat.
One of the best tricks of the landscaping trade is to utilize mulch around plants, trees and shrubs. Both aesthetically appealing and beneficial to soil, mulch helps to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture and keep soil strong throughout the often trying temperatures of summer. For homeowners hoping to get the most out of their mulch this season, the following factors should be considered before beginning a mulching project.
Appearance. Many homeowners want to make their lawn as aesthetically appealing as possible. A good looking lawn can increase property value and instill a sense of pride for all who live at a home.
Mulch comes in a variety of appearances. Color and tidiness are two sticking points for many homeowners. Typically, no one wants the mulch to be the talk of guests and neighbors, instead the plants, trees and shrubs the mulch surrounds should garner the bulk of the attention. Dark-colored mulches tend to instill a relaxing feel to gardens, while brighter colored mulches might work better in vegetable gardens. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from the sales representatives where you’re buying your mulch as to which mulch goes best with each area. Mulch does not have to be uniform throughout the property to provide maximum aesthetic appeal.
Benefits to the soil. Arguably the biggest advantage to using mulch is its positive impact on soil. However, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit group dedicated to working for a healthy environment, different mulches serve the soil in different ways. While all organic mulches fertilize the soil as they decay, they do so at different speeds.
If improving the soil is a priority when mulching, rapidly decaying or nitrogen rich mulch is most beneficial. Rapidly decaying mulches include shredded leaves and grass clippings and are typically recommended for annuals. Slowly decaying mulches, such as bark or straw, are generally considered most beneficial to trees and shrubs.
Application. For some homeowners, finding the time to get outside and lay mulch can prove very difficult. In such cases, easy application is probably paramount. At this point, it’s probably best to consult a professional as to which mulch is not only the easiest to apply, but also the easiest to maintain, as anyone who doesn’t have much time to mulch probably doesn’t have much time to maintain it either.
Protection. How well mulch insulates is also an important factor to consider. For example, during the summer months mulch should work to keep heat out, while it should do the exact opposite in the winter. Once the weather has taken a turn for the warmer in the spring, consider mulching a summer garden with hay, wood shavings or even compost. These mulches will insulate the garden from summer heat. In the winter time, pine needles or straw are effective at trapping heat once the ground has frozen. Other mulches, including bark and stone, are essentially the multi-taskers of mulch, working to insulate in both summer and winter.

Chris Wilson