Mulch, Mulching and Annual Garden Maintenance.

Homeowners typically have their gardens mulched every year for aesthetic purposes but mulch provides so much more than a fresh look.  Mulch helps moderate soil temperatures, it helps soil retain moisture, it adds organic matter to the soil profile which will slowly feed the landscape, it slows weed growth and it can prevent erosion too.

When choosing a mulch, you’ll notice that prices vary from just under $20 to just over $50 per yard.  Why is the price for mulch so varied?  One word, quality! For the most part, cheap mulches are made from wood(ground stumps) and more expensive mulches are made from mostly bark.  Cheap mulches typically get their color from latex paints, more expensive mulches get their color from the materials that make up the product. Cheaper mulches are usually made up of larger chunks of wood, more expensive mulches are finer, are usually double ground and sometimes aged for more than a year to give it it’s dark color.  Cheaper wood mulches also have a greater chance of developing artillery fungus which is not a good thing.  There is also another mulch product that is quite popular.  It’s typically marketed under the trade name Sweet Peet.  It’s basically composted animal bedding.  It’s a finely textured, brown mulch.

At Designing Eden llc, we typically use two products to mulch our clients gardens, an aged, double ground bark mulch and a Sweet Peet look-a-like from Jeff at We choose Jeff’s product because we like it better than Sweet Peet.  It’s slightly more coarse then Sweet Peet so it doesn’t travel as much during inclement weather and it holds it’s color a lot longer.  I can say this because I had Sweet Peet and Jeff’s mulch stored at our place, side by side, last year.  I was amazed how different Jeff’s product looked when compared to Sweet Peet after a couple of months, there was no comparison.

When I was going to school 25 years ago, we were taught and drew specs calling for 3-6″ of mulch in gardens.  In reality, a new garden should receive only an inch or two of mulch.

When mulching an existing garden, the garden should receive as thin of a layer of new mulch as possible.  Nothing is worse for a plant than too much mulch.  Heavy mulching can prevent air and water from entering the soil and smother a tree or shrub over time.  Before mulching, you should always turn over the old mulch with a garden cultivator to break it.  This is really important in preventing artilllery fungus. Turning over the mulch will add oxygen, allowing the old mulch to break down quicker and prevent any layering.

Although it’s not the best picture, I still love it.  Someone spent the time to correct over mulching at this commercial property.  There is no doubt this tree will reward everyone down the road by enjoying it’s newly found freedom.

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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.


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