In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
May, 2013
Regional Report

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When spreading mulch, leave 3-6 inches of empty space between the mulch and the stems of shrubs and trunks of trees.

Mulch Now For Summer Ease

Spring is slip sliding into summer temperatures, and gardening season is in full swing. Raking, clipping, bagging, and hauling debris from perennial beds is just step one, though. Step two is fertilizing with a slow-release, granular fertilizer. Enough, you say.

Not quite. While the air is crisp and bugless, take advantage of this weather to mulch. Mulching properly now will mean more fun this summer -- less weeding and less watering. Consider mulching a smart, preemptive strike to stop weeds before they get a roothold. So clean out the wheelbarrow and enlist several strong arms to hoist, haul, and carefully apply a 3-inch thick layer of mulch between annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. Just be sure not to pile it up against trunks, crowns, and stems or you'll invite decay. Leave several inches between the bases of plants and the mulch.

Watch Out for Artillery Fungus
A word of caution: wood mulch, especially wood chips, may harbor artillery or shotgun fungi known to damage house siding and cars . The fungi shoot sticky spores -- tiny dark spots -- toward light material such as siding, where they adhere tenaciously and are difficult to remove. To reduce problems with these fungi, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recommends selecting mulches that contain at least 85 percent bark. Avoid mulches with a high proportion of wood because wood chips have a lot of carbon, a food source for the fungus. Consider an alternative mulch, such as black plastic, stone, pea gravel, or marble chips, in spots directly adjacent to homes, cars, or surfaces where the risk of damage is greatest.

Mulching Tips

  • Be sure not to pile mulch up against trunks, crowns, and stems or you'll invite decay. Leave several inches between the bases of plants and the mulch.

  • Here's a formula for figuring out how much mulch you need: Nine bags of mulch equal 1 cubic yard. One cubic yard of mulch 3 inches deep covers 108 square feet; 3 cubic yards at 3 inches deep cover 300 to 325 square feet.


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