Wood mulch makes a great landscape mulch. It matches a plant’s natural growing environment much better than a weed mat with gravel piled on top.
When used correctly, wood mulch provides many benefits that improve plant growth and reduce stress that sets plants up for environmental or pest issues. It can even surprise us with some interesting or gross-looking stuff now and then.
Plants prefer even soil moisture and mulch provides this by reducing evaporation. Other mulch benefits are weed suppression, moderating soil temperature and preventing a hard crust from forming on soil. Crusted soils restrict air movement into and out of soil and slows water infiltration.
A weed mat with a heavy layer of gravel on top also restricts air movement into and out of the soil. This is one way this type of mulch leads to plant stress and restricted growth. Plant roots need oxygen to function.
Some mulch is good, but too much may not be. Mulch layers should only be 2 to 4 inches thick, depending on texture. Coarse-textured mulch can be deeper, up to 4 inches, than fine-textured mulch.
And mulch should not be piled against plants. This holds moisture against stems leading to wounding or decay organisms infecting the plant. It can also provide a haven for insects.
Homeowners worry about termites invading wood mulch. The risk is very low. In Nebraska, termite nests are in the soil, not in wood structures. If concerned, keep wood mulch a foot to two away from building foundations.
During rainy periods, wood mulch can produce some really weird-looking growth. These are the fruiting or spore-producing bodies of naturally occurring fungus that are doing what comes natural, decomposing the wood. They are not pathogens and will not harm nearby plants.
They can by quite interesting in appearance. They may look like a foamy mass resembling dog vomit. A common…