A big part of lawn care is gathering up and disposing of dead limbs, leaves and grass clippings. Normally, this material ends up in the trash, but it’s not hard to turn it into mulch that can be used to protect and fertilize plants that are in your garden or integral to your landscaping.
What’s the Difference Between Mulch and Compost?
Both mulch and compost are decomposed organic matter; the difference comes from how much they’ve decomposed. While nutrients from mulch aren’t instantly available like they are with compost, it’s great for ground cover, stopping weeds from growing around plants. Since it doesn’t break down as much before it’s used, mulch doesn’t stink like compost does during its later stages of development, and it’s a lot less finicky when it comes to composition.
What Materials Can Be Used for Mulch?
– Chopped hay and straw
– Grass clippings: Using the mulching mode on your Cub Cadet mower is the most effective way to use clippings as mulch. However, you may want to bag clippings to halt the spread of weeds or when the grass is too wet to be processed. Putting these clipping on your mulch pile lets you return their nutrients to the soil.
– Wood: Twigs can be put directly into the mulch pile, while larger branches and bark need to be chopped up into small pieces. A Cub Cadet chipper/shredder creates chips that are the perfect size for mulching.
– Sawdust: This needs to be from untreated wood since the same agents used on lumber to protect it from rot and weather will also keep microorganisms from breaking it down.
– Pine needles: These are acidic, so they should only be used in small quantities unless the mulch will be applied to plants that thrive in acidic soil like rhododendrons and dogwood trees.
Building a mulch pile can be a near-year-round process. You can start in the summer with grass clippings, then move on to leaves in the fall. When you trim trees and branches during the start and end of the growing season, that wood can be chipped and added to the pile.
Create a Site for Your Mulch Pile
The mulch pile will kill any ground covering, so it’s best to locate it somewhere that will be out of sight. The pile itself just needs something to give it structure, like a ring made of snow fence or chicken wire held up with small fence posts. Covering the pile with a tarp or sheet of plastic will help hold heat and moisture in, increasing decomposition.
Turning Waste into Mulch
The best results are achieved by using a variety of waste sources to create the mulch: by mixing materials, you’ll create a finished product that will have a varied consistency that will be less likely to blow or wash away. Starting the mulch pile with a layer of wood chips and twigs will help with drainage and aeration, but it isn’t required to get good results.
When you add new material or the pile starts to smell, turn the mulch with a garden fork. This will help oxygen reach the microorganisms in the mulch so they can do their job.
When can you use your mulch? The longer it has to decompose, the more accessible the nutrients will be to your lawn, but even relatively fresh material can be used for ground cover. Keep in mind that new mulch with a high proportion of wood could leach nitrogen from the soil.
Using it around trees, shrubs, and gardens will help manage heat reflected toward the plants in the summer, and it can keep moisture from evaporating. The mulch layer should be three to four inches thick, and some space should be made between the mulch and the plants you want to grow. Worried about dormant weeds sprouting from your mulch? Lay down some newspaper to act as a barrier. It will prevent the seedlings from taking root and will decompose alongside the mulch, integrating into the soil.
If winter temperatures are on their way, wait to apply mulch until after the first freeze. The mulch can act as a blanket, shielding root systems from temperature changes which may keep plants from going into hibernation early enough to protect themselves from the cold. After the freeze, mulch application can help prevent frost heaving.
Where to Get Parts for Your Cub Cadet Equipment
www.cubparts.com is a certified Cub Cadet dealer. That means we carry OEM replacements for everything they make including the mowers, leaf blowers and wood chippers you need to manage your lawn. Our site is built to make it easy to find what you need, letting you view factory parts diagrams and descriptions to correctly identify parts. We ship across the U.S. and Canada.