If you garden, you know the benefits of mulching. It keeps your plants toasty and warm at night, prevents weeds from growing during the day, and looks pretty in the meantime. However, because of the organic material in many types of mulch, problems can sometimes arise. It’s important to recognize the challenges that con come with mulch and how to get rid of them before they damage your plants or crops. Here are five common issues that mulch-users have and the easy ways to solve those problems:
1. Slime mold
a. What it is: Slime mold is a mold that is similar to fungus in that it attached itself to moist objects. It is usually orange or yellow in color and can stretch up to two feet. Although it’s unsightly, it isn’t super harmful to your plants.
b. How to get rid of it: You can either scoop up this mold and remove it from your garden or let it dry out. Drying it out will be sure to prevent it from coming back, since it thrives on moisture.
2. Don’t suffocate your plants!
a. What it is: If you spread your mulch too thickly across your beds, you will end up suffocating your plants. They will root in the mulch instead of the topsoil beneath it, which will cause root rot.
b. How to get rid of it: Don’t spread much that backs right up against your plants. Also, don’t bury your plants in mulch. Use it as a top layer, and that’s it. Use it as the frosting on your garden cake: you wouldn’t want to overwhelm your cake with too much frosting, just like you don’t want to overwhelm your topsoil with mulch.
3. Make sure your mulch is all natural
a. What it is: Many mulch companies will use dyes in their mulch to make it more aesthetically pleasing, but these dyes can oftentimes be toxic to your plants.
b. How to get rid of it: Make sure that the mulch you buy is natural and organic. Ask your mulch providers about any potential dyes they use on their mulch to color it, and if that dye does anything to harm plants. Research on your own to make sure that the mulch you are buying is high quality and won’t kill your plants.
4. Keep those bugs in the great outdoors
a. What it is: Certain bugs are attracted to mulch and live in gardens, like centipedes, beetles, ants, and gnats. Because of the moisture retained by mulch, these bugs thrive in these environments. They also help out with composting mulch and returning nutrients to plants. These bugs become an issue, however, when they move from your flowerbed to you home.
b. How to get rid of it: You can reduce the number of insects that find their way into your home by maintaining a distance of 6 inches between your mulch and home. You also can prevent infiltration by having thin layers of mulch as opposed to thick ones, which don’t give bugs much room to grow.
5. Sour Mulch
a. What it is: If your mulch smells like sulfur or rotten eggs, this might be the problem you have in your flowerbed. It is also marked by the yellowing of leaves on your plants. Sour Mulch is caused by a lack of nitrogen in the soil.
b. How to get rid of it: Take the mulch that smells and put it out in the sun to dry. After this, add a nitrogen rich fertilizer to the flowerbed.