We give credit for this information to the Hamilton County Master Gardeners.
Spring is usually the best time to lay mulch, after the ground has warmed and dried out from winter moisture. However, if the weather continues to be cool and wet, it is better to wait until soil conditions improve. Grass and weeds in the area must be removed before the mulch is applied. Using a landscape barrier or edging will help keep the mulch in the desired area.
The Mulched area around the tree or shrubs should be from 3 to 6 feet depending on the size of the plant and the visual effect you with to create. A rule of thumb is to mulch out to the tree drip line (where the width of the tree canopy reaches). Many landscape plans use large mulched areas with multiple plantings to create dramatic visual designs or to separate landscape areas.
When mulching around trees and shrubs, use a heavier material such as wood bark, wood chips or shredded wood, which are slower to decompose. Organic mulch must be composted properly to avoid "souring". Sour mulch is toxic to young plant growth. Most manufacturers and suppliers are concerned about the quality of their mulch but it is still possible to purchase sour mulch. Quality mulch will smell like earth or fresh-cut wood. It should never smell like vinegar. In addition, fresh wood chips and sawdust that have not been composted at all will draw nitrogen from the soil and should therefore only be used around established trees.
A layer of mulch about 2-4 inches deep around your planting is ideal. If you are applying mulch in a poorly drained area, even less mulch should be used. Some people, even professional landscape services, make the mistake of adding additional mulch year after year without considering the depth of existing mulch. Since the heavier mulches are slow to decompose, adding additional layers each year can create a layer so thick it can actually damage or kill the plant. Heavy mulching prevents the soil from "breathing" by inhibiting evaporation of moisture and causing the soil to become waterlogged. Prolonged exposure to water saturated soil can damage roots and kill the plant. This should be of particular concern here in Central Indiana with our heavy, clay soil. If you like the appearance of fresh mulch and want to apply it each year, be sure to remove some of the old so there is no more 2-4 inches of total mulch.
Another common mistake made by homeowners and professionals alike is the creation of 'mulch volcanoes'. Mulch should never come in contact with the plant stem or trunk. Always keep mulch 3 to 6 inches away from the trunk(s) of trees and shrubs. Mulch is intended to retain water and when piled agains the tree trunk can cause rot, insect damage and disease. In addition, small animals can borrow into the volcano and feed on the plant bard buried in mulch.
We give credit of this information to the Hamilton County Master Gardners
Including mulch in your landscaping is one of the best methods of improving and maintaining the health of your trees and shrubs. Not only does mulch benefit your plantings, it also enhances the beauty of your landscaping by accentuating the appearance of your specimen trees and shrubs and giving a finished, manicured look to your property
Organic vs Inorganic
There are two basic types of mulch; organic and inorganic. Organic mulch, such as wood chips, bark, shredded wood, pine needles, cocoa hulls and other plant material, decompose at various rates depending upon the product and need to be replenished from time to time. As organic mulch decomposes, nutrients and organic matter are added to the soil.
Inorganic mulch is made from various types of stone, gravel laval rock, shredded rubber and other such materials. Inorganic mulch is often used in commercial areas like office complexes and shopping areas, but may not be compatible with all home landscaping designs. Since inorganic materials do not decompose, they do not provide a benefit to he soil composition. On the other hand, inorganic mulch does not need to be replenished so long as some type of barrier is in place to keep the material from washing into your lawn or driveway.
The Benefits of Organic Mulch
Organic mulch helps the soil surface by helping conserve water - mulch can help reduce evaporation by 10 to 25%. It stabilizes soil temperature by keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Mulch also helps prevent soil compaction resulting from raindrops directly impacting the soil. Being organic, it slowly breaks down adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil, which also reduces soil compaction and improves moisture retention. Organic mulch also creates favorable soil conditions for earthworms and other organisms beneficial to soil and ultimately, your plants. In addition, mulch controls weeds and creates a protective barrier between your landscape plants and lawn equipment.
Connor Prairie will open its doors on March 28 for the 2013 outdoor season. Special opening weekend activities will include the Amazing Race Through Time, a sneak preview of the new Barker Brothers' Pottery Shop, interacting with new baby animals and much more.
Opening weekend will offer guests a chance to compete in mental and physical challenges spread out over Conner Prairie's five historic outdoor areas in an Amazing Race Through Time. Challenges may include everything from testing your skills at tomahawk throwing to identifying brick patterns at the historic William Conner Homestead. Prizes will be awarded to the first 50 guests who successfully complete the race each day.
Visitors can also catch a sneak preview of the newest addition to 1836 Prairietown, the Barker Brothers' Pottery Shop that officially opens in June. Watch a master potter throw clay on a spinning wheel and then practice your pottery skills on the model spinning wheels. Guests who visited last year are likely to see some of their own handy work displayed in the building.
Also, enjoy the nature walk. Trek along a gravel path that begins in the heart of the outdoor historic area and through a forest and along the top of a levee, which is flanked by woods, farmland, prairie and the White River. At the end of the trail you will find an elevated observation deck with a wonderful view of the prairie, which was crated to attract migratory birds.
Don't miss out on the new baby animals. Stop by Animal Encounters, sponsored by Elanco, to hold, pet and help care for all the new baby animals and see how many more are expected. A baby could be born at any minute. Also, meet the animals spread throughout the pastures in 1836 Prairietown and 1863 Civil War Journey.
Opening weekend is March 28 10-5. Admission is $14/adults, $13/ seniors 65+, $9/ youth (ages 2-12), free for members and youth under 2. Some activities may include an additional fee.