Improve Curb Appeal by Adding Mulch to Your Landscaping This Fall

Cocoa Mulch in a flower bed in Hershey, PA

Cocoa Mulch in a flower bed in Hershey, PA

If you’ve ever been to Hershey, Pennsylvania, you’ve probably seen, and maybe even smelled, the dark brown cocoa shell mulch that provides moisture retention and soil enrichment in the gardens and landscaping throughout the city.

While cocoa shell mulch may not be readily available in local gardening centers, mulch is an important part of commercial and residential landscaping. Mulch can be any material spread around or over a plant to enrich or insulate the soil. Fall is a great time to add mulch to your lawn and garden to ensure plants stay healthy all winter long. In addition, when applied right, mulch can enhance the appearance of your yard.

Your local home and garden store should have several different types, sizes, and colors of mulch, but UGA Extension Agent Paul Pugliese recommends an inexpensive option—shredded leaves. Leaves are already nature’s way of creating a “natural blanket for protecting tree and plant roots from extreme cold temperatures,” writes Pugliese in “Fall Gardening: A Collection of Information and Resources,” a publication of UGA Extension.

Pugliese says that large leaves must be shredded to keep them in place around shrubs and flowers. Large leaves will blow away, he writes. Once the leaves are shredded, he recommends a 3- to 5-inch layer around trees, shrubs, and flowers. If you prefer the look of other types of mulch, like pine bark nuggets or shredded cypress for example, use shredded leaves as a base so you don’t have to buy quite as much of the more expensive types.

Another advantage of leaves is that they will decompose throughout the winter and add nutrients to the soil, which means healthier spring plants.

Mulching existing flower beds and gardens in the fall is a good idea, but it is especially important to mulch around new plantings. Mulch will reduce weeds and protect delicate plant roots from winter’s cold. When spring arrives, well-mulched plants will have stronger roots and be better prepared for summer’s heat, says Pugliese.

Another benefit of decorative mulch is increased curb appeal, which is especially important if your home is for sale. According to a poll conducted in May 2015 by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, 91% of respondents said they want to live in an area where they can see or walk to nice landscaping. Almost three-fourths of those surveyed think it is important that their neighbors have well-maintained yards, and 84% said that the quality of a home’s landscaping would affect their decision about whether or not to buy a home.

For more information and fall gardening tips from UGA Extension, go to:
http://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.cfm?number=AP105