It’s a little too early yet for mulch

Hello, Tribune Chronicle readers! May is here; however, at times it still feels and looks like the beginning of April.

Last Friday, I checked the soil temperature and it was only 49 degrees at my farm. This shows how long spring is taking to warm up from the winter slumber.

I know our farmers are eager to get in the fields. It won’t be long before our farmers will be going full tilt in the fields.

Today, I would like to share some information on a new no-till drill, share a chance for farmers to participate in a statewide research project, and urge you to stay away from applying mulch until the end of the month.

I am pleased to report that Bortnick Tractors Sales in Cortland has purchased a 706 NT Great Plains 7-foot End Wheel No-Till Compact drill for farmers who wish to rent it to plant cover crops, grass waterways, and hay and pasture fields. This drill can be rented for $15 per acre.

Contact Dana Harju at Bortnick Tractor Sales at 330-924-2555 for rental details or the extension office at 330-637-2056.

Steve Culman, a newly hired Ohio State University Extension specialist in soil fertility, is part of a team of college experts seeking soybean growers to participate in a project to look at phosphorus and potassium in soybeans as part of an overall effort to update the Tri-State Fertility Recommendations for soybeans.

Culman is hoping to work with about 30 growers for the project. Growers would have a large degree of flexibility in the layout and management of their fields in the experiments, which could involve either applying additional fertilizer to plots or applying no fertilizer to plots.

Since the OSU research farms typically have high phosphorus and potassium levels, low soil test phosphorus and potassium farms are of particular interest. Growers can determine the fertility rates, and farmers and educators will be paid for their time and effort.

To participate, interested farmers should contact Culman at 330-263-3787 or email

As our weather starts to warm up, I have noticed a lot of folks working out in their yards and a lot of our local gas stations selling mulch. Why gas stations sell mulch, I will never understand.

I urge gardeners to hold off applying mulch. It is way, way too early to mulch. I never like to see mulching until our soils warm up, and even though we have had nice weather, our soil temperatures are still below 50 degrees.

By mulching too early, you will keep the soil wet and cold, which could damage the root systems of plants. In addition, the application of heaping mounds of mulch against the tree trunks, often referred to as volcano mulching, can be damaging.

When mulch is applied in this manner, moisture captured by the mulch can keep the plant’s bark in a continued state of wetness. This can cause the bark to decay, and lead to insects, fungi, and bacteria feeding on the damaged tissue. Not a good thing!

Mulch put on at the proper time and at the proper depth of 2 to 3 inches, can have many benefits, including the prevention of weed growth, conservation of moisture in the soil, stabilization of soil temperatures, and the addition of organic matter to the soil.

My general guideline is that mulch should never be applied before Memorial Day which is still over six weeks away. Remember, patience is a virtue. For those interesting in learning how to properly mulch, check out the following OSU Extension factsheet at:

Marrison is associate professor and extension educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension. He can be reached at 440-576-9008 or