Hedges are great for privacy, blocking views from the street and creating a buffer between your property and the neighbours.
They're also great for security and aesthetics. Plus, they even prevent unwanted pests and wildlife like rodents, rabbits, and deers from entering your property.
But most people don't realize how much work goes into planting and maintaining a hedge.
Hedges are usually planted at least six inches deep to prevent weeds from growing underneath them.
But weeds can grow underneath hedges. Weeds will compete with your hedges for resources like light, water, and nutrients. This will cause slow growth rates of young hedging plants or kill them off.
So, how do we prevent that from happening?
We put something under the hedges.
But what should you put under them?
Mulch is a layer of organic material placed beneath plant roots to protect them from soil erosion and water runoff.
A layer of mulch can also:
Helps the soil to retain moisture and nutrients, reducing the need for irrigation.
Helps improve soil quality. Because mulches are organic materials, they will decay over time and add nutrients to the soil.
Helps deter and control weeds and grasses, reducing the need for cutting and pulling them.
Mulch sits on top of the soil, covering the surface and preventing seeds from germinating and grass and weeds under hedges from growing.
There are many types of mulch available, including pine bark, straw, wood chips, peat moss, compost, and leaves.
Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks.
Pine bark is inexpensive, but it doesn't last long.
Straw mulches are excellent mulches and last longer than pine bark, but it's not very attractive.
Wood chips are durable and attractive, but they require regular replacement.
Peat moss is expensive, but it's great for retaining moisture and nutrients.
Garden compost is free, but it requires frequent replenishment.
Leaves are cheap, but they can be messy and smelly.
The best option depends on your needs. You may want to use mulch for aesthetic purposes only, or you may need to use it to control weeds. Whatever your reasons, there's a type of mulch that works well for you.
Mulch needs to be 3 or 4 inches deep. Generally, one cubic yard of mulch is enough to cover approximately 80 square feet.
Before placing the mulch at the bottoms of hedges, make sure to pull all the weeds around hedges and any unwanted plants in the area you're putting them on.
Then, simply spread the mulch on the ground under hedges and around it. You can use any tools you like, or you can just use your hands.
Make sure to give 1 to 2 inches of gap between the base of each plant and the mulch to prevent any bark decay and spread them around up to the outside edge of the foliage or at least 3 feet from the base.
To recap, mulches should be:
4 inches deep
Place 1 to 2 inches away from the base of the plant
Spread up to the outside edge of the foliage or at least 3 feet from the base.
The best time to apply mulch is when plants need it most—during the growing season. Mulch should be applied at least three weeks before planting and reapplied every four months during the growing season.
In regards to the season, it's best to apply them from mid to late spring and in autumn because mulches work best when the soil is warm and moist.
You can still apply mulch in late winter or any time of the year. It's just that mid to late spring and autumn are the best times to do so.
As mentioned above, mulch will eventually decay, so you need to refill it once in a while. Wait for the previous batch to rot down before applying a new one to avoid creating a hard layer of material than can prevent water from seeping into the soil.
Organic and biodegradable mulch lasts about three to nine months before decomposing.
Although organic too, wood chips last up to eight years.
Synthetic mulch lasts for decades. However, you will need to replace them after 5 to 10 years.
The general rule is the thicker the layer of mulch around your plants is, the longer it will last.
Areas that have mulches will need watering. The mulch will absorb water which leads to some water loss. So, you need to pour extra water to ensure that the roots get enough hydration.
You can apply fertilizers directly onto the mulch. The mulch will become fertilizer eventually anyway.
It's best not to use uncomposted garden waste as a mulch because it will introduce and attract pests, weeds, and/or diseases.
Like hedges, mulches also offer many benefits while also improving the beauty of your garden. One of the main benefits of mulching is the control of weeds.
Controlling and removing weeds is harder to do on hedges because of their structure, so mulching is one of the best ways to deal with weeds.