Mulching and woodchips are great ways to help your plants thrive. They insulate soil, retain moisture, help control weeds, and improve the appearance of your landscape. Wood chips and mulch can do all these things in one tidy package. There’s just one catch: most of the time, these materials aren’t recommended for mature plants. So why is it that this advice almost universally applies to younger plants rather than older ones? Shouldn’t more mature plants need more help than seedlings? Maybe so, but older plants generally don’t need as much help with things like insulation and moisture retention. Also, certain materials used for mulch and woodchips – namely straw, leaves, twigs and other natural plant byproducts – tend to be home to pests or diseases that could affect mature plants.
When Is Mulching and Woodchipping Good for Your Mature Plants?
Depending on the material you’re using to mulch or woodchip your plants, some of the normal drawbacks might not apply to mature plants. If you’re using a biodegradable material like straw, it’s more likely to be home to disease and pests than wood chips. For a mature plant, however, these aren’t as much of a threat. Mature plants are generally easier to protect against insects and disease than younger plants. This is because they’re more established – and therefore, healthier – than seedlings. They’re also less susceptible to pests and diseases because they’re more mature. In other words, most insects and diseases won’t be interested in a plant that’s already fully grown. Mature plants also won’t need as much help with retaining moisture. A seedling, on the other hand, is still growing and developing, so it needs all the help it can get with growing strong, healthy roots.
Why is Mulching and Woodchipping Usually Bad for Mature Plants?
As with the benefits, the cons of mulching and woodchipping mature plants are the same reasons that they’re usually recommended for seedlings: they provide too much insulation, they retain too much moisture, and they invite pests and diseases. For example, over-mulching could trap too much heat, which could be harmful to your plants. In the same vein, mulching too deeply could hold too much moisture, which could stress your plants. Mulching and woodchipping with certain materials could also invite pests and diseases that affect mature plants. For example, a mature plant is more susceptible to pests like root rot than a seedling, which is still growing roots. Certain mulches – like corn cobs and wood shavings – are also home to pests like termites and silverfish, which could cause severe damage to your mature plants. Mature planting solution
The Benefits of Woodchips and Mulch for Mature Plants
Mature plants usually don’t need as much help with insulation and moisture retention. Woodchips and mulch are generally great at retaining moisture, which means they could actually stress your plants with too much moisture, just as they would with a seedling. Mature plants are already strong and healthy, so they probably don’t need additional support with insulation. Instead, they could use an insulating material to help with warmth retention in the winter. Woodchips are great at this, too. Mature plants tend to be more resistant to pests and diseases, which means that you probably won’t need to worry about pests like termites or silverfish living in your mulch. Mature plants are also more resistant to diseases.
Pros of Using Mulch with Mature Plants
If you decide to mulch your mature plants, choose a material that’s lightweight and easy to remove, like straw or grass. You’ll want to remove the mulch completely each fall to protect your plants from excess moisture that could damage roots. Mulching with lightweight materials like straw tends to offer less insulation than heavier materials, like woodchips. This means you can use mulch to help ensure that your plants aren’t getting too cold in the winter. Mulch is good for aesthetics, too. It can be used to hide messy areas and uneven ground, improve the look of foundations, and even encourage wildlife.
Pros of Using Wood Chips with Mature Plants
Woodchips are best for aesthetic purposes. You could use them to hide messy areas and uneven ground, but they may not be as effective at it as straw or other lightweight materials. Depending on the type of wood you use, you may be able to use chips for insulation. You could also layer your chips for a two-in-one effect. Woodchips are great for improving wildlife habitat. They’re often home to insects, reptiles, and other wildlife like birds, so using them as a mulch in your landscape could be good for your garden and your local ecosystem.
The Bottom Line
Mulching and woodchipping are great ways to improve the health of your plants – but only when used with younger plants. If you have mature plants in your landscape, you’ll want to be careful about what you use to mulch and woodchip them. Choose lightweight and easily removable materials, like grass or straw, to protect your mature plants from excess moisture and cold.
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