As spring gently moves in, you may be commencing your gardening or landscaping and consideringusing colored mulch on your lawn. If you have used mulch in the past, you may already know that this versatile material has multiple uses, including soil protection, weed prevention and moisture retention. In addition to these important benefits, colored mulch provides higher UV-resistance and aesthetic enhancement to your property. As mulch is dyed typically using a safe coloring process, mulch is also safe for the environment, plants, people, and pets.
How to Use Colored Mulch
First, choose your color. Mulch is usually available in a variety of colors, including brown, red, black, and gold. Think of a color complementary to your desired place of mulching. For example, you may prefer a reddish/brown color if your house is made of bricks, or you may choose black for a more natural look. If you have an artistic flair, think of the vision you’re trying to create, and how the pairing of the mulch with your property may contribute to the overall landscape.
Secondly, decide how much you will need. To do this, first calculate the area to be mulched: length x width. Then, multiply this number by 0.33. Divide the result by 27 to calculate how many cubic yards you will need. If you are purchasing mulch in bags, further multiply this number by 13.5 to calculate how many bags you will need to buy. Each bag typically contains two cubic feet.
For example, if your area measures 5 ft. x 7 ft., the steps would be as follows: 5 ft. x 7 ft. = 35 square feet. 35 sq. ft. x 0.33 = 11.55 sq. ft. 11.55 sq. ft./27 = 0.43 cubic yards: You would require 0.43 cubic yards, or 0.43 cu. yd. *13.5 = 5.775 bags: You would purchase 6 bags, each containing 2 cubic feet of mulch.
You are now on your way to start the colored mulching process!
One to two weeks before laying the mulch, spray the area with weed killer. Weeds are thus allowed time to die completely, and are then easier to extract. To prepare the mulch, lay the mulch on grass or soil, or on tarp-covered concrete to prevent discoloring. (If mulch is contained within bags, there is no need to lay the mulch onto these other surfaces.) Next, prepare the mulch beds. Clear out dead leaves, weeds, and all other debris. If the beds currently contain mulch, or, if there is simply bare earth, loosen either with a cultivator or roto-tiller. This frees up the soil or mulch for air and water. With a rake, smooth the surface to be mulched. Before applying the mulch, apply a pre-emergent to the mulch bed to prevent weed seeds. Now, using gloved hands or a rake, spread mulch over existing loosened mulch or bare earth 2-4 inches deep. If this is the first layer of mulch, spread a layer of 2-4 inches. If spreading over a previous layer of mulch, spread a layer of 2 inches. Wait one to two days to allow drying, then water. If it rains before the mulch dries, rake the surface to even out the mulch coloring.
After a few weeks, you should check for compaction. Using a cultivator or rake, loosen the mulch in order prevent fungal growth, improve plant hydration and restore appearance. If you do discover fungal growth, the mulch has indeed compacted and the bed has dehydrated. Remove it and the surrounding mulch immediately. Rake the existing mulch over the empty patch and water well.
Colored mulch, as with regular mulches, needs to be replaced every season or every other season. You can generally judge by its condition, e.g. fading color is a sign that you should replace the mulch. Since the dye used to color the mulch offers UV protection, the UV-resistant mulch is more durable than regular mulch, and typically lasts longer. Its exact usage life will vary depending on the amount of direct sunlight. It is also important to periodically check for and loosen compaction, key to allowing air and water to pass through, thus improving hydration and preventing fungi.
Again, colored mulching has many benefits, including weed prevention, moisture retention, and certainly, aesthetic pleasure. With these tips, you and your neighbors can soon be enjoying your colored mulch’s aesthetic and practical benefits!