Get the dirt on mulch
Three highly rated Washington, D.C.-area landscapers get down and dirty about wood mulch and topsoil.
What are the benefits of mulch?
James Durant: One reason is for appearance. The second is to keep the weeds down in the flower bed. Cedar mulch is best because its smell keeps bugs out.
Christian Brown: It creates a blanket so it holds warmth in the winter on the roots, and in the summertime if it rains, it helps hold moisture and helps depress weeds. It gives the beds a nice, neat appearance.
Don Saunders Water retention, weed suppression and aesthetics. It’s recommended for those purposes, but you don’t have to do it.
What percentage of organic matter is recommended in topsoil?
Durant: It’s really hard to grow stuff here because clay is like brick. I use a pine fines soil, which is a conditioner to break down the clay. It breaks down the clay and keeps it from clogging the roots.
Brown: We use a compost topsoil mix — 90 percent compost, 10 percent topsoil. The topsoil around here isn’t that good in northern Virginia. It has lot of clay.
Saunders: Most of the soils that you find in the Greater Washington, D.C. area primarily have a high clay content, so we offer a 50/50 mix of compost and regular topsoil to break down the clay, loosen the soil and provide nutrients.
How do I know what mulch to choose?
Durant: Stay away from stump mulch, which is mulch made from ground stumps. They need to ask their provider where they get their mulch.
Brown: Double-shredded hardwood bark mulch because it’s coming off the logs at the mill and getting ground up versus stump mulch. You could get insects and termites in that kind of mulch.
Saunders:If appearance is more important, there’s three colors: black, brown and red. Cedar mulch has an aroma that deters bugs and is a more resilient wood so it decomposes less rapidly.
How is price determined?
Durant: I charge $45 an hour per man. I usually have two guys with me. It depends on how much cleanup is involved.
Brown: Anywhere from $65 to $100 installed per cubic yard.
Saunders: We sell it by the cubic yard. Buy 10 or more yards of double-shredded hardwood mulch the price drops to $23 a bag from $27.