GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In the peak of the summer heat, one of the most helpful things to have in your landscape is also one of the worst to be working with. However, mulching can pay dividends …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In the peak of the summer heat, one of the most helpful things to have in your landscape is also one of the worst to be working with. However, mulching can pay dividends when it comes to conserving water, keeping your plants happy and healthy and cutting down on the time you spend weeding.
Mulch serves many purposes in the landscape and vegetable garden. It provides a barrier to growing weeds, modulates soil temperatures, retains water for your plants, and gives the bed a clean, finished look. Additionally, as time goes on, mulches made from organic materials such as hardwoods, bark, or pine needles will break down and add some nutrition to the soil.
However, making the right choices when mulching is important.
Choosing Your Mulch
You want to select a mulch that is made up of organic material that will decompose into the soil. There are many options for this including those made from the destruction of nasty invasive plants like melaleuca. The only exception would be cypress mulch, which is not a sustainable product and can lead to the deforestation of cypress stands. You may also want to stay away from mulch of questionable origin, as it may contain pests or diseases or other debris.
Stone mulch is also a poor choice as it does not enrich the soil and can reflect heat back into your plants. The best place for stone mulch is in areas without plant material or to manage erosion or other issues.
Laying Your Mulch
After you choose and locate a source for your desired product, make sure to clear the area to be landscaped of any weeds and level the soil as best you can. You may also want to create an edge of your landscaped area to hold in the material which can be done with brick, pavers, plastic edging, logs, or even a vertical cut with a shovel if your soil has enough clay.
Some choose to use a layer under the mulch such as newspaper, cardboard, or landscape fabric. This can help prevent weeds from growing up into the mulch but paper products break down over time and the landscape fabric can break dog, clog with soil, or limit some plants from spreading.
In Florida, spread your mulch at a depth of 2-3 inches over the area. Do not allow mulch to cover the trunk or stem of any tree or plant as this will lead to possible rotting and disease so keep it a few inches away. The practice of “volcano mulching” where mulch is mounded around the base of a tree is especially egregious.
For more information about this topic, visit http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/planting/mulch.html.
If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Clay County Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.