Mulch fight

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by turfed, Aug 27, 2010.

  1. turfed

    turfed LawnSite Member
    from MI
    Messages: 24

    I have a very high maintenance customer. Their old landscaper occasionally stops by the property and tells the customer all the things "wrong" with what we are doing to the job they installed years before. Trimming bushes this way, and so on. The new complaint is the thickness of mulch.

    We installed a double ground hardwood mulch throughout the beds. When we put this down, there was mostly bare soil. It had been a couple of years since mulch had been applied. We put in between 3-5 inches roughly. I was told that on an existing landscape, you should put in a max of 1 inch. For new landscapes, 3-5 would be ok. They want us to remove the "excess" mulch before we kill the plants. Is there any truth to this?? I'm not a guy with 15 years experience, but i can't see where this could be true. In addition, they're telling me that the thickness of the mulch will have nothing to do with controlling weeds. These beds all have applications of weed control. I thought it made sense that with the thicker mulch, less weeds can germinate.

    I know over time the mulch will break down and turn to soil, thus possibly holding weed seeds. But in your opinion, am I damaging the landscape with the mulch thickness? Any thoughts will help......thanks.
  2. MDLawn

    MDLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,284

    I'm no landscape master but most of my mulch jobs I try to stay between 1-2" with 2" being max. This helps with weed control but I've seen weeds grow out of and in most anything. Too much and the mulch tends to look sloppy after certain areas settle more than others. I also find that excess mulch just needs to be removed the following year to clean out the beds properly. A 5 inch layer would take some time to breakdown. Only my opinion but I was also taught this way by a landscaper I worked with years ago and everyone was a return customer year after year. You also don't want to bury the plants in mulch either. Don't cover tree trunks in mulch. Every area is different but I feel that 3-5" is just wasting material.

    I'm not agreeing with the landscaper who installed the landscape but make sure you are trimming everything right. Last thing you want is to find out you cut off all the blooms or killed a plant. Maybe they are just mad you got the maintenance on the property. Did they previously do the maintenance?
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2010
  3. Glenn Lawn Care

    Glenn Lawn Care LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,645

    I always put down 3 inches of mulch. You will always get weeds in mulch beds so up sell spraying weeds weekly. Job security!
  4. GMLC

    GMLC LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,345

    I always lay 3-4 inches for new beds. Never heard of to much mulch causing problems.
  5. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,141

    turfed: I'm truly not trying to be mean but if you don't know that 3-5 inches of mulch is too much, then you probably don't know how to properly trim bushes.
    Another words, you need some good experience and education. You may find guys on here who will say that 3-5 inches is OK. In fact, that depth is OK strictly for weed control. Put on 6-8 inches and you'll even have better weed control. But in a planting bed two inches maximum is recommended by those who know what is best for the plants. Roots need air! Trimming bushes properly is not merely shearing them into round shapes. But then again maybe that is all your clients are willing to pay for. If so, go right ahead and trim that way.
    But if you want to trim properly you need to know the characteristics of a given plant which will tell you when and how to prune them.
  6. BCLawns

    BCLawns LawnSite Member
    Messages: 124

    agree with the above post. around plants and bushes 2" is enough.
  7. Runner

    Runner LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,497

    I disagree. 3" to 4" is a standard depth for mulch, and takes that to block enough light for weed prevention. Turfed, there is truth to what is said in you post, but it is taken out of context. 3 to 5" is ok initially on new landscape installs, because you are starting from scratch, and at the high end, 5", it will pack down and settle a bit after it is soaked a few times. The bit about the 1" of mulch on an existing landscape is for top dressing an existing mulch base to freshen it up, and that is advised, because that is the minimal you need, so it it appeals for economic reasons. However, if the old mulch is depleted and/or decomposed enough to where more mulch can be added, that is fine, too. In other words, if there is around 2" of mulch left in the beds, it is perfectly ok to add another 2" or so - (even a bit more, as it is going to settle). Now,..thing to look OUT for is that the crowns of the plants are not covered. This will cause rot, as it hold too much moisture at the base of the plant - this includes trees.
  8. starry night

    starry night LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,141

    Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet
    Mulching Depth

    The recommended mulching depth, depending on the
    material selected, is 2 to 2.5 inches. At this depth, most mulches will accommodate the primary objectives of weed control, soil moisture conservation and temperature modification. However, mulch applied 3 to 6 inches or more, still recommended by some, can lead to serious problems for landscape plants. A mulch that is too thick may severely reduce or eliminate drying and lead to water-logged soil.

    When The Ohio State University speaks, I listen.
  9. dKoester

    dKoester LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,298

    Get Planet certified and that will help solve alot of problems.
  10. Andover Landscape Co.

    Andover Landscape Co. LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Lexington,KY
    Messages: 573

    Hmmm, That is odd...I know that the limit is 3inches. 2-2.5 is common. But the reasons I have always been told were different. No more than 3" because the water will have more trouble reaching the soil and the plant material would be more likely to not get enough water...


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