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Q.How to spread mulch… do’s and don’t’s

Zone Monkton, Maryland 21111 | peterbbell added on April 10, 2019 | Answered

Since I can’t seem to find any direction on this subject (including here), this may just be a very stupid question. That said, seeing as how every year the different landscape services we’ve used continue to spread it this way, I’ll ask: Is it acceptable to spread mulch up against a white picket fence, never mind to a depth of 6+ inches? I would think this promotes rot never mind splatter when heavy rains come. Is it acceptable to pile mulch up against, not only the brick foundation of a house but even above the real wooden siding? Is it acceptable to bury pavers under 6″ of mulch, leaving the homeowner the task of unearthing those pavers? How about burying the legs/wheels of an expensive wooden hammock under 6″ of mulch? Wouldn’t you move the hammock first, then lay the mulch down? How about straightening any in-ground rubber trim which, over the winter, moved a bit instead of mulching around it and leaving it ugly? When you get a new roof, the roofers typically replace any defective underlayment, charging for any excessive amounts over a pre-agreed allowance. Does spreading mulch have any fundamental guidelines e.g. straightening the rubber trim (takes 2 minutes) or resetting a paver that may need resetting (takes 3 minutes). Perhaps these are common sense issues which require no discussion but I’m beginning to think, as they say down South “ya cain’t fix stupid.” We signed up a landscaping company to manage our property to include weeding and lawn mowing but if this is a sign of things to come… yipes! What to do? I know what he’s going to say… “I’ve been doing it this way for 20 years.” But of course. Appreciate your direction and referral to any published articles about this. Thank you, Peter

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Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on April 10, 2019

Everyone has a different way, honestly. There is no rule or guidelines, other than laying it at an appropriate depth. I do know one thing... Unless you do it yourself, or hire a reputable company (Good landscaping is not reasonably priced, it will be outrageously expensive) then this is something that you will come to expect from most landscaping companies. There is a difference between a company that prides what they do, and one that needs to make money.

As far as some of your issues on how far it backs up to something... You will never be able to prevent that, unless you have a barrier. Even if it weren't put so close, it will get pushed up against it during the first rain after.

I recommend having bed liners, and barriers between any wooden surface and garden beds. Any wood contacting soil, or microbes will eventually rot. Without some sort of barrier it will be very difficult to keep soil off of wood.

I would say that from here you will want to compare several companies, look at reviews, and expect to pay incredible amounts of money for good landscaping. It is quite difficult to find a good company these days, it would seem.

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Answered on April 10, 2019

Thanks for the opinion BushDoctor but I daresay, accepting poor work seems a poor alternative. There's a "right way" and a "wrong way" to every project and, taken separately, if you go to fencing they clearly warn against mulching up against a wooden fence and/or allowing debris (leaves etc.) to accumulate as it promotes rotting of the bottom of the fence. Foundation construction warns against mulching up against the foundation for reasons of drainage and it may attract termites and other insects; wood siding installers clearly don't recommend anything touching their product so... my point, even tho this is common sense, why isn't it part of "Mulching 0100" or part of the National Association of Mulchers (I'm sure there's one!) instruction set? As it is, we raked away over 3 garden carts of mulch, forming a 6" wide channel at the base of the wooden picket fence. This allowed access for painting. After that we spread a layer of pea gravel ($3.50 for a 40lb bag) and we're done. Of course we also located all of the covered pavers and swept them clean. Now then, if we pay college kids to spread our mulch, with just a little supervision, it all gets done quickly and without any issues. The fellow we're using is a recommended landscaping service (see Nextdoor.com) and we're paying him $700 a month [year round] to manage our 4 acre property. That's mowing 2.5 acres 27 times, mulching as needed (12 yds) and he's supposed to weed. The way things have been going I'm doubting the latter so have been vigorously spreading Preen in anticipation of having to do it myself. "Ya get what ya pay for" may apply to every category but even then, some fundamentals if not common sense should come into play. Lose to the service industry is the apparent notion that "Harry Homeowner" can't perform said service when in fact, "Harry" may just be too busy, lazy or just doesn't give a hoot. But properly motivated Harry can easily mow his own lawn, spread the mulch, weed and whatever else there is to do around the house. In fact, several on our street have gone back to mowing their own lawn simply because the "service" was tearing it up and thinking nothing of it. Status Quo is a poor standard or a window of opportunity for whoever wants to do it right the first time.

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