Wood chip mulch is made from the chipping of trees and landscape prunings. Rather than taking up landfill space, these once discarded products, including Christmas trees, are now providing a better growing environment for new plants in landscapes and gardens.


Wood chip mulch is made from the chipping of trees and landscape prunings. Rather than taking up landfill space, these once discarded products, including Christmas trees, are now providing a better growing environment for new plants in landscapes and gardens.

Mulch is material placed on the soil surface for the purpose of protecting the soil and plant roots. Not only do organic mulches add a decorative natural appearance to the landscape, they also provide many landscape benefits.

Helps retain soil moisture. Mulch helps soil retain moisture and reduces water evaporation caused by wind and hot sun. Under its insulating blanket, soil remains moist long after bare areas become dry and require irrigation.

Reduces soil temperature extremes. An application of mulch helps avoid extreme temperature fluctuations. It acts as an insulating blanket and keeps soil cooler during hot periods and warmer in winter months.

Reduces weed growth. When the site has been properly prepared, mulching reduces weed growth, the headache of many gardeners. Occasional persistent weeds will need to be removed.

Saves time in landscape maintenance. Place mulch under and between plants in tree and shrub beds, border plantings, hedges, rose beds, and fruit orchards. By replacing grass with mulch, mowing and watering time is cut dramatically.

Gives a natural look. A few fallen leaves in a planting bed with a wood chip mulch gives your landscape the natural beauty of a forest floor. When you choose to remove the leaves, they too can be recycled by composting and then used as a soil amendment.

Prevents direct contact with soil. Mulch prevents vegetables, including squash, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, and unstaked tomatoes, from making soil contact, thus helps to reduce rot caused by soil microorganisms.

Creates paths. A thick layer of mulch can be used to create walkways throughout the yard. Mulch paths permit easy access to any part of the landscape, even after heavy rains. No longer is a wet plot off limits until soil has dried sufficiently. During dry periods, mulch also reduces dust.

Prevents heavy rain damage. Mulching reduces soil erosion. It permits water to seep slowly beneath the protective covering.

Increases survival of new trees. Not only do mulches keep the soil cool and moist, they also keep the lawn mower and weed trimmer from damaging young bark and killing trees.

For best results, remove existing weeds and turfgrass prior to applying the mulch directly on the soil.

Keep the mulch 2 to 3 inches from the base of plants.

Apply to a depth of 2 to 4 inches.

Apply mulch in a 3- to 6-foot diameter under newly planted trees.

Apply mulch in a 1-foot band around large tree trunks to make mowing easier.

Apply beyond the spread of shrubs to allow for growth without lawnmower interference.

Cover the soil to the drip line under fruit trees for optimum growth.

May apply to the drip line of large trees that provide shade too dense for growing lawn grasses.

Mulching is a great way to conserve moisture and lower your landscaping water bill.

Scott Eckert is Harvey County Extension agent, horticulture.