By Judy Yohe
Had Shakespeare’s question been “To mulch or not to mulch?”, Hamlet’s soliloquy would definitely have been much shorter and far less eloquent. For the mulch question, the simple answer is “Yes! Mulch!”
Investing in Mulch
Mulch is one of the best investments a manager can make in a property, and the return is far more than the investment. Considering that mulch improves the property’s appearance, reduces weeds and other pests, conserves water, stabilizes the soil, and improves plant health, it is the best landscaping multi-tasker on your property.
A great insulator, keeping the soil cooler in Summer and warmer in Winter, mulch’s added benefit is the retention of moisture. That thin layer of mulch blocks the sun from baking the soil, keeping the soil cooler without impeding irrigation. It reduces the moisture evaporation by 10-50 percent, thus benefitting everything in the bed.
The effect mulch has on soil temperatures is one of its biggest benefits, though often the most overlooked. This is especially important during rapidly changing weather, with sudden extremes. Mulch maintains more of a constant, preventing alternating freezing, thawing, freezing, thawing during Winter and baking and dehydration in the Summer.
Other Things Mulch Does
- Mulch, coupled with a good herbicide application, almost eliminates weeds in a bed.
- Mulch also deters erosion, which prevents the loss of topsoil, which could cause drainage issues at a later date.
- Mulch is also an inexpensive enhancement that increases the property’s appeal and aesthetics.
There are many types of mulch, but basically only two are used for commercial properties in Georgia – pine straw and hardwood.
While both are attractive enhancements, the hardwood is a better benefit. Though the hardwood is a little more costly initially, it is a better value in the long run. Hardwood mulch lasts about a year longer than pine straw. Pine straw should be applied twice a year, whereas hardwood only requires one application a year. Hardwood is also better for slopes and flood-prone areas since it has a little weight and is less likely to slide down a slope or float away.
Example: On a 2,500 square-foot property, 100 bales of pine straw would be needed. At $700 per application (two applications a year), the cost would be $1,400 a year. The three-year cost would be $4,200.
On a 2,500 square-foot property, 15 cubic yards of hardwood mulch would be needed. The first year would be $750 with half the amount required in subsequent years, so $375 each for the second and third years. The three-year cost would be $1,500.
SKB Industries uses a bark blower to efficiently blow a thin layer of mulch over a property’s beds, using less mulch and resulting in a smooth, even layer.
So when your manager asks whether to mulch or not to mulch, the only answer is “Yes! Mulch!”