Much Ado About Mulch and Mulching

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Garden tip from Christiane Holmquist, Member APLD

Christiane Holmquist Landscape Design



Christiane Holmquist views plants as her partners when she turns clients’ landscape visions into reality. “Maintaining a deep respect for plants prevents me from creating structure-driven gardens that rely too heavily on hardscapes,” she says. “I believe that when plants are accorded proper attention and space, they can create an emotionally resonant space for the homeowners. After all, a garden is meant to engage beauty and to nurture a person’s deep accord with the natural world. A landscape without plants isn’t a garden at all.”

Much Ado About Mulch and Mulching

If your garden’s layer of mulch has thinned considerably over the last season (like mine has), then it’s time to replenish it.  Benefits will show in a few weeks.


Here’s what mulching does:

  • Reduces the amount of water that evaporates from soil, greatly reducing the need to water
  • Improves the quality of your soil by breaking up clay and allowing better water and air movement through the soil
  • Provides nutrients to sandy soil and improves its ability to hold water
  • Acts as an insulating layer on top of soil, keeping it cooler in the summer
  • Mulch keeps weeds down, and the weeds that do grow are much easier to pull


Mulch like you mean it:

  • Before applying mulch, remove weeds and water thoroughly.
  • Replace the grass under trees with mulch to mimic the way trees grow in nature.
  • Keep mulch 6 to 12 inches away from the base of trees and shrubs.
  • Apply 2 to 4 inches of mulch in all planting areas. Finer mulches (sized a half-inch or smaller) should be applied no more than 2 inches deep. Coarser mulches, such as large bark chips, can be applied 4 inches deep.


Shopping for mulch

Mulch is available by the bag or in bulk. Bulk mulch is measured in cubic yards. You can calculate the volume of mulch you need by multiplying the area (in square feet) by the depth (fraction of foot, not inches), then dividing by 27.

Here’s a link to help guide your calculations:

Here are more providers of mulches, topsoils and amendments:

El Corazon Compost Facility (AgriService), Oceanside

San Diego Landfill, San Diego (some products are free for San Diego residents)

For County of San Diego locations to recycle your green-yard debris and woody material or to pick up compost and/or mulch consult the Compost and Mulch Facilities Guide.

Categories: Gardening