Much Mulch

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Soon it will be time to think about mulching. As you indeed are aware, mulch will:

• Reduce soil moisture evaporation
• Suppress weeds and prevent weed germination
• Insulate soil from extreme temperature changes
• Reduce soil erosion and compaction
• Gradually decompose, adding valuable organic material to the soil
• Make your garden more attractive

A reader contacted us recently about using cypress shreddings, and while we enjoy the low cost of this material, we aren’t so happy about the environmental impact. A lot of cheap and lazy gardeners are using cypress, and that means we are losing a lot of cypress trees – many more than we are replacing. This is worrying.

Also, some garden centres offer dyed versions of shredded cypressed to “jazz” up the looks of your garden, but, my word, isn’t that what flowers are for? We don’t need additional dyes leaking into your soil, and into your town’s water supply.

Let’s look at other options:

Shredded bark: also inexpensive. It comes from a variety of sources, including cedar trees. Shredded bark clings to inclined areas and it breaks down relatively slowly. Some shredded-bark products are byproducts from other industries; they’re considered environmentally friendly. It does use up some of the nitrogen from the soil beneath as it decomposes, so adjust and top off accordingly.

Leaves: What could be cheaper and easier than shredding fallen leaves in your yard and using them to cover the soil? Fallen leaves break down quickly, but ripping or shredding  them prevents them from matting down. If you do not have trees in your yard, ask your neighbours. if you have children, send them over to an elderly neighbour’s house to help out with the raking, and they can bring you home free mulch!

Eucalyptus: I love the smell, and the colour, of eucalyptus. Eucalyptus ages from golden yellow to reddish tones, deters some pests, and is not too harsh on the environment. The downside is its durability – it may need to be replaced or topped off before the season’s end because it settles into the soil.

Melaleuca: The Australian melaleuca tree comes from the same family of plants that gives us tea tree oil. Unfortunately, these trees are growing where they do not belong – in the Florida Everglades. Fortunately, the environmentalists that are removing the trees are providing malaleuca mulch at a decent price. And termites don’t care for the taste!

Cocoa Hull Mulch: The nicest mulch, from our perspective as chocolate-loving ladies, these hell-shaped cocoa hulls, which are the byproducts of commercial cocoa grinding. It smells delightful, and the colour is gorgeous, but there are some drawbacks: the most important is that cocoa hull mulch can be poisonous to dogs and cats if eaten. In areas with hot, humid weather, mold may grow on its surface, and as the hulls are light, they can blow away unless you spray them down well with water after you first spread them.

Other options:  Look around you – there can be locally resourced straw, peanut and pecan shells, corn husks, chemical-free sawdust or composted manures from nearby farms. Many local landfills and recycling centers provide free tree waste mulch – worth a phone call.

Love the Life You Live,

Arabella

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