Spreading garden mulch can be a marvel or a menace depending on how and where it is applied and the type of material you use. Before mulching consider your personal circumstances and environment. What type of pests do you frequently see in your garden, and what types of plants are cultivated in your landscape?
If you live in an area where termites or house ants are an issue, use mulch made from tea tree or cedar as this actively repels these insects. Avoid using mulches made from cypress or pine, as these can actually attract certain insects. You should also beware if lime disease is an issue in your area and use mulch sparingly as ticks look for moist, dark places to hide.
For further prevention of insect issues associated with mulching, apply mulch only to areas away from structures and buildings that you would prefer to keep bug-free and intact. This could include not only houses, but also gardening sheds, fences and decks.
The amount of mulch you use is also a factor in a successful mulch application. Even for the healthiest gardens, mulch should never be more than 2 to 4 inches in depth. If you apply more than a 4-inch mulch depth, you might prevent water from entering into the soil. It could also encourage rodents to make their homes beneath the mulch, especially if the mulch is piled around the base of a tree trunk. If this occurs, the rodents can severely damage or kill the tree by gnawing on the truck. Consequently, this makes the tree more susceptible to other pests and diseases.
One of the benefits of mulch is that it retains moisture in the soil by reducing the rate of evaporation. While many plants benefit from this, others do not. For instance, if you have soil that drains poorly and have established plants that require well-drained soil, the mulch can exacerbate the issue by trapping even more water around the roots, causing them to get water-logged, which can lead to root rot. To prevent this, know the type of soil you are dealing with as well as the needs of your plants. If you are already having issues with drainage, use mulch very sparingly.
Overall, mulching can be very beneficial to a garden, providing the soil with nutrients, insulation, and weed control. But, every gardener should research what mulching material is best for their individual garden, as well as their geographical area, to ensure they reap all the benefits possible.