Solving Mulching Problems

Slugs And Mulch

While mulching generally benefits soil and plants, there are a few problems associated with mulching. Slugs and snails prefer the kind of environment mulch creates. They seek daytime shelter in mulch in areas with moist, rich acidic soils. The solution is not to get rid of the mulch, but rather to get rid of the slugs. Slugs and snails are best controlled by setting out slug traps 6 72 400A baited with beer or yeast early in the season. By killing the first arrivals, future generations of slugs are reduced considerably. If the slug population gets established, then they are much more of a nuisance.

Click here for more information on Dealing With Slugs And Snails.

Mice And Mulch

It is a mistake to spread mulch right up next to the trunks or stems of trees and shrubs. During the winter, it is a favorite place for field mice to nest. They are likely to gnaw on bark and seriously harm woody plants. One way to avoid this problem is to remove the mulch around trees and shrubs temporarily in the fall until the ground freezes, then restore it. Always allow about 2 inches of space between the bark of a tree or shrub and the beginning of the organic mulch. Another way to discourage mice damage is to wrap the plant stems in hardware cloth or commercial guards.

For more information see the file on Controlling Mice.

Cold Soil And Mulch

Winter mulch does a nice job of buffering temperature extremes, preventing erosion and soaking up excess moisture, but it has one disadvantage. The soil underneath the organic mulch stays cold longer in spring than if the soil were bare. So in flower beds and in vegetable beds, it is wise to remove all the winter mulch about three weeks before the last frost of the spring is expected. That exposes the soil to the sun, giving the beds time to warm up and dry out properly for spring planting and to allow the bulbs and the perennials to get a proper start.

Keeping Mulch In Place

Mulched areas on hillsides or particularly windy sites are sometimes difficult to keep covered with organic materials such as chopped leaves. Keeping mulch in place is a matter of common sense and strategy. Experience soon teaches which mulch blows or washes onto the lawn on a gusty or rainy day. A scattering of coarser, heavier wood chips on top of chopped leaves will hold them down. Sticks and twigs in less visible areas are an effective mulch and look convincingly natural. Alternatively, when mulching similar sites with leaves, lay down a layer of sticks first, then add the leaves. The leaves get caught in the sticks and stay in place. If the chopped leaves stay moist they are generally less prone to catch the wind and move around.

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