Mulch pros and cons:
- Mulch is an integral part of any successful landscape project.
- The long term intention of the new landscape is that the plants will eventually fill in and cover the area entirely so that mulch is no longer required.
- However, in the short term mulch is very beneficial, even though it may not look as good as you like.
Mulch acts to keep weed seeds from germinating.
Weeds are the number one point of failure when establishing a ground cover.
IF the weeds get up and outcompete the ground cover, you will forever have problems getting weeds out of your ground cover.
Without mulch, weeds will proliferate because we will be watering extra to establish the new plants. This will cause a spike in required maintenance because hand weeding will be the primary means to control the outbreak.
Now, this is not to say that an application of mulch at the time of planting will completely eliminate weed problems; but you are looking at a 70-80% reduction depending on what is present in the area.
Mulch also has many other benefits:
Runoff prevention: mulch keeps rainwater from causing runoff in bare areas
Water conservation: Most of your irrigation is lost to evaporation making less water available for plant use. A coating of mulch in a new planting bed provides a layer of insulation so that water loss due to evaporation is minimized.
Soil nutrition: As mulch decomposes into organic material, it nourishes the soil for the young plants. The establishment of this cycle is crucial providing rich soil for plants to thrive. You have an added benefit of having the trees, you will be able to simply blow the leaves up into the planting beds providing a natural layer organic material. This is an ideal cycle of nutrition in your landscape.
Disease prevention: Most diseases for plants are soil born. If there is no mulch then heavy rain will splash soil up on the plant foliage making them more susceptible to contracting a disease.
On a slope and in a heavy rain, mulch can sometimes wash out, and need to be cleaned up. We use large pine bark nuggets which minimize this. And a physical border may be required in some cases.
In a new planting bed that has a matrix of plants spaced evenly, it can look like an expanse of mulch only. Some are put off by this initial appearance. However, as the plants grow and fill in with less weed competition and less evaporative water loss from the soil; this appearance will transform into a healthy stand of plants.
Concerned about attracting termites because of mulch? Check out this article from UF and IFAS:
What do you think? More than you thought you would ever want to know about mulch, but in landscaping it is a component you do not want to forget.