What is Hardwood Mulch?

Mary McMahon

Hardwood mulch is a type of garden mulch produced from hardwood trees like maples and oaks. Garden supply stores and nurseries commonly carry this product and can order it by request if people cannot find it readily available. In areas where harvesting of hardwood trees is common, hardwood mulch is usually very easy to find, and it can be quite inexpensive.

Hardwood mulch is typically spread around flowerbeds and shrubbery beds.
Hardwood mulch is typically spread around flowerbeds and shrubbery beds.

Like other materials used for mulch, hardwood mulch serves a number of functions in the garden. It inhibits the growth of weeds by covering the soil, making it difficult for them to sprout, and it also keeps the soil moist, preventing compaction and crusting. It can help soils retain water more efficiently, making a garden less water-hungry, and it builds up and conditions the soil by slowly breaking down over time, adding a rich layer of organic material to the soil.

Using mulch in a flower bed can prevent a later invasion of weeds.
Using mulch in a flower bed can prevent a later invasion of weeds.

In the case of hardwood mulch, the mulch comes in a rage of sizes including finely shredded mulch, chunks, and mulch chips. The color varies depending on the wood, and some companies may apply mulch dye to create a wider variation of colors. This type of mulch tends to resist blowing and floating away in wet weather more effectively than some other kinds of mulch, and will last for an extended period of time in the garden as it slowly breaks down.

People can safely apply hardwood mulch around most plants. In some cases, breakdown of the mulch can negatively impact the pH balance and nutritional composition of the soil, and it is important to check and see if any plants in the garden come with specific mulching concerns. The mulch should be applied evenly in a thin layer. If the layer is too thick, it does not function as well, and is more expensive to apply. Rakes can be used to make the mulch even and to ensure it is uniformly applied.

If mold begins appearing in hardwood mulch, it can be a sign it was applied too thickly. Dense layers of mulch can create an ideal environment for mold and other fungi by trapping water and warmth. The presence of mold is an indicator that nutrients and water may not be reaching the underlying soil. Over time, breakdown inside the layers of mulch may create a layer of soil ideal for colonization by weeds, allowing weeds to sprout in the middle of the mulch. The mulch should be raked to thin the layers and redistribute the excess.

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