Performing regular mulch maintenance is an essential part of creating a safe, healthy, and great-looking landscape or playground. Find out how to make sure your mulch is well cared for through proper maintenance.
What Can Happen if You Don’t Practice Mulch Maintenance?
As your mulch ages, parts of it can be swept away by rain or lost in high winds. There will also be natural attrition from traffic, as the mulch sticks to shoes, clothing, and vehicles before it is carried away. Also, as the mulch begins to decay, it can break apart. All of this can result in areas where the mulch is thin and less effective.
Over time, it is natural for the color of your mulch to fade from sunlight, rain, and natural decay. Since the process happens slowly, you may not notice the change, but adding fresh mulch can renew the rich color that you chose for your landscaping bed or playground in the first place.
While mulch will do a great job of preventing weed growth for some time, eventually that will start to fade. Over time, seeds from other plants can get into the mulch and make their way to the topsoil. This is especially true as your mulch begins to thin and it becomes easier for weeds to catch sunlight.
How to Care for Mulch
One of the most effective ways to perform mulch maintenance is to replenish it with a fresh supply. This will allow you to return the color and thickness of your mulch to keep it looking great and prevent weeds from growing. Depending on how long it’s been since the mulch was installed, where it is being used, and how much traffic it is getting, you may not need to fully replace all the mulch. If you’re just looking for a boost to color and thickness, you can add a fresh layer of mulch on top of the area.
Regularly raking your mulch is a good way to prevent the growth of mold by exposing the lower layers to the sun and air to dry out. It also creates paths for water to seep through the mulch and into the ground, instead of collecting in the mulch itself. Raking will also help break up clumps and keep the mulch from pilling around your plants.
Weeds can spread fast, which is why it’s important to get rid of weeds quickly when they turn up in your mulch. You can help prevent the growth of weeds with landscaping fabric and kill them with herbicides or by pulling them out by their roots.
How Often Should You Perform Playground Surface Maintenance?
It is especially important for schools, municipalities, and other organizations that are in charge of playgrounds to perform regular mulch maintenance. Some schools choose to skip a year of maintenance to save money, but that can cause significant problems. Not only will the mulch not look good, but it can lead to a lawsuit due to unsafe conditions.
Skipping a year of maintenance is also unlikely to save any money. You will likely end up paying double the cost to replenish your mulch the following year because it has fallen so far behind.
In order to keep the playground safe, we recommend that you perform thorough yearly mulch maintenance in the spring and fall to prevent mold, foreign objects, and thinning mulch from becoming a hazard on the playground. Much typically degrades at a rate of one inch per year, but the amount of maintenance you’ll need to perform will depend on the amount of foot traffic that your playground has. For instance, a middle school will need more regular maintenance than a preschool.