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Landscape Maintenance vs. Lawn Care: What’s The Difference?

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There’s nothing quite like a fresh, professionally installed layer of mulch to make your landscaped beds look fantastic. You may have already weighed the DIY vs. hiring a pro decision and decided that it’s worth paying a little bit of extra money to ensure that your beds look their best—and also avoid the hassles and headaches of performing this arduous task yourself.

You might have even searched for “mulching companies near me”.

But what you may not realize is that not all mulching services in Alexandria, Arlington, or Springfield, VA are created equal. Though it’s not an overly complex service, it’s involved enough that there are plenty of companies that will cut corners or even fail to perform the job properly.

There’s more to it than many realize and we’ve heard plenty of stories from local homeowners who have been unhappy with mulching services they’ve received in the past from other companies.

We don’t want you to get ripped off by mulching services. However, we understand that in order not to, you need to know what to avoid.

1. Not Getting Enough Mulch (Or Getting Too Much)

The amount of mulch that is put down matters. There is such a thing as too much mulch as it can absorb available moisture and reduce how much ends up reaching plant roots. When mulch is heavily moisture-rich, trees and shrubs will develop new roots closer to the surface than they should be, as they aim to seek out moisture. These roots often circle trunks and eventually girdle and choke plants.


Excessive mulch will also fail to decompose over the year, as it should. Over time, as you add new mulch each year, it will accumulate. It’s not uncommon to see over-mulched properties have a build-up of 7 to 12 inches of mulch after a few years. Over-mulching can also attract insects near the foundation of your home and mulch against trunks can promote a moist environment that will make trunk bark rot and kill plants.

On the flip side, too little mulch isn’t ideal, either. Aggressive weeds can be strong enough to grow through a sparse layer of mulch and it will not serve as a very good barrier or insulator when spread too thin.

In terms of exactly how much mulch is needed, it will depend on your specific plant beds and site conditions. On average, most plant beds need somewhere between 2 and 3 inches of mulch per year.

2. Failing to Weed Beds

A lot of mulching services will take shortcuts when preparing beds and simply dump mulch atop of the weeds that are already there. But this will not smother weeds as many believe. Aggressive varieties will push right through the mulch. Thorough weeding should be performed prior to mulching.


3. Using Subpar Mulch

Contrary to what many believe, mulches are not all created equal. Mulch can vary dramatically in terms of its quality. In fact, subpar mulches often come from recycling centers that take all types of garden debris, including invasive weeds. It can be filled with all sorts of junk you don’t want in your beds. If your mulch introduces weeds into your plant beds it completely defeats the purpose of mulching in the first place.

Using mulches that were shipped in from other areas could actually introduce foreign pests and diseases. Though it’s a worst case scenario, we have heard horror stories of people finding termites in low-quality bagged mulch from big box stores which was comprised of recycled trees cleaned up after hurricane-decimated areas.


While you’d like to think that going through a search for mulch installers near me and using a professional to install your mulch will mean you end up with a good quality mulch, the truth is, we’ve seen homeowners get ripped off by so-called professionals using poor quality mulches. It’s a way that some companies may try to cut corners to make more money or to offer you what seems like a better price.

At Kingstowne, the mulch that we use is double-shredded hardwood. It’s a dark brown colorized mulch that holds its color. When you see mulch that looks like it’s turning gray in the sun, you know it’s not a high-quality colorized mulch. But we often have homeowners tell us in awe that they can’t believe their mulch still looks great six months after we installed it.

4. Failing to Edge

Some mulching services do little more than dump the mulch and move on to the next job. But a professional landscaper will ensure that the bed truly looks its best with additional services beyond just mulching.

landscape with mulch installed by professionals

One of those services is edging. Cutting a clean, crisp edge into a plant bed is a finishing touch that is going to give your plant beds tremendous curb appeal. Edging creates a nice delineation between your lawn and your landscape beds. It also has the added benefit of helping keep lawn weeds out of plant beds.

5. Taking Forever to Complete the Job

If you work with a mulching service that dumps the mulch on your property but doesn’t send anyone out to install it right away, then you could be dealing with the hassle of a giant mulch pile sitting around (and getting in your way) for quite some time. Most of the time, mulch is dumped in the driveway, blocking most or all of it from use. It can also leave a stain behind.

Of course, many properties in Alexandria or Arlington, VA don’t have driveways so the mulch is dumped in the street, which is also an annoying obstruction until it’s used. Many small companies or those who are dealing with a labor shortage simply can’t get to properties quickly enough leaving homeowners to deal with the pile until they finally begin the work.

In many circumstances, Kingstowne uses high-quality mulch that is bagged. This helps us to avoid the big piles sitting around staining driveways and streets.

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6. Overall Carelessness

When you work with a company that lacks professionalism, you always run the risk of them making careless mistakes. Whether it’s breaking something on your property (a statue or other ornamental accent, for instance), damaging plants, or even causing damage to your lawn in some way, these careless mistakes end up costing you.


We feel the fine details of something as seemingly simple as mulching mean everything. From a smooth layer of mulch (vs. lumps), to extra care around the bases of plants, our goal is to make everything look as pristine as possible.

Unfortunately, by not investing in higher quality mulching services, it may reflect in the quality and skill of the technicians who are sent out to perform the work.

Choosing Mulching Services in Alexandria and Arlington, VA

Though we realize it’s not rocket science, there’s still a distinguishable difference between a landscaping company that takes its time to install mulch the proper way and one that cuts corners, rushes the job, or makes mistakes. As with any landscaping service, you get what you pay for and by investing even just a little bit more money, it will pay off with better results.

plant bed and rock steps with mulch installed by Kingstowne Lawn & LandscapeWhen performing a search for mulch installers near me, take a look at the company as a whole.

Even though it’s a relatively simple service, if the landscape company has bad reviews for the other landscaping work they perform, there’s a good chance they may not be very impressive in their mulch installations, either. The last thing that you want is a company that is careless or sloppy. If you’re investing in professional mulching, you want the job to look professional—and you can definitely tell the difference. A company that dumps mulch and moves on, not taking the time to spread it out evenly or edge the bed, is not going to do much for your curb appeal.

You also want to find a landscape company whose mulching services will give you peace of mind by taking your stress away.

A feature that distinguishes Kingstowne from other mulching services is the fact that we offer a Mulching & Edging Plan. That means that once you sign up for annual or biannual mulching with us, we take care of the rest. You don’t have to scramble at the last minute (one week before the party or gathering you’re hosting) to see who can show up and get the work done. When you’re on our Mulch Plan, you get priority placement on our schedule and can rest assured it will be taken care of. Now you can sit back, relax, and truly enjoy your weekend.

Plus, by making the wise choice in mulching services, you’ll end up with great looking landscape beds that were installed properly with the right amount of mulch and proper bed prep. For those superior results, homeowners say it’s worth investing just a little bit more for that peace of mind.

Do you want the best landscaping company in Alexandria or Arlington, VA for your mulching services? If so, request your quote, get your customized plan, and relax as you get the royal treatment.

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Image source:  mulch, bark mulch

Krisjan Berzins - Owner, CEO

Since 1997, Krisjan has led the Kingstowne team with one simple philosophy, treat every customer like the “only” customer. His passionate pursuit of impeccable customer service has resulted in 24 successful years and a thriving company with over 85 employees, helping thousands of homeowners in the Alexandria, Arlington, and Springfield, VA area get what they want -- a worry-free property they can be proud of.