Mulching your garden brings benefits
TRACY HODGECreating a beautiful and functional Florida garden requires choosing native plants that will thrive in our area and learning to care for them correctly.
Published: October 24, 2012
Published: October 24, 2012
An easy and relatively inexpensive way to increase your chance of success is to place mulch around your plants and trees after planting. Mulching is one of the most important aspects of creating a landscape setting that thrives in our growing area.
Many home gardeners choose to add mulch to their yard because it creates a nice contrast of color, which is pleasing to the eye.
However, the right mulch can also provide a variety of health benefits for your plants, trees and shrubs.
Mulch slows down the evaporation rate of water from the soil around your plants. This means the soil will remain moist for longer periods of time after irrigation or periods of rain.
Adding mulch to your landscape will buffer soil temperatures, which keeps soil cooler in the summer and warmer during the winter months. Weeds are much easier to control when mulch is in place and you will find less erosion in your garden, as well.
Now that you know why mulching is important, you must decide which mulch best suits your landscape setting. There are many types of mulch available at your local garden center.
Red mulch is harvested from scraps of hardwood trees or taken from the stems of smaller trees. After shredding, the mulch is dyed a bright red color which is popular with home gardeners.
While it is pretty to look at, red mulch fades quickly with the central Florida sun and rain. This type of mulch also can camouflage snakes and spiders, making them more difficult to spot when you are working in the yard.
If you like the look of red mulch and want to use it, just keep in mind it will need to be refreshed more often than other types of mulch.
Pine bark is often chipped, packaged and sold as mulch after it's stripped from pine trees. This mulch comes in light brown nuggets and is easy to spread under trees and in flower beds.
Pine bark lasts longer than red mulch because it doesn't fade as quickly. The biggest disadvantage of using pine bark is buoyancy, which allows it to be carried away with heavy rain.
If you have pine trees in your yard, you can make your own mulch with pine needles. Collect the needles and spread them in areas that need mulch. You also can purchase packaged pine straw at most garden supply centers. Pine straw retains its color nicely and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
Cypress mulch is taken from pond cypress or bald cypress trees, which grow in abundance in our wetlands. This mulch can retain its color for as long as two years and is easy to spread. Cypress mulch is easy to find and is commonly sold in garden centers.
I asked the managers at Sunstate Landscaping which mulch they recommend for home gardens. Scott Hodge was quick to answer, "Cypress mulch is affordable, easy to spread and lasts the longest. It's what we use in most residential landscape designs unless homeowners request something different." Organic mulches are also effective and easy to make at home. Grass clippings and newly fallen leaves both make excellent mulches.
Mulching properly is important to the healthy and beauty of your yard or garden. Placing too much mulch around your plants can keep the roots from obtaining the oxygen necessary for good health and vigor. It also can be costly if you spread mulch too thick.
Experts recommend placing two to three inches of mulch around plants for best results. If you make your own mulch with organic matter, don't pile it too high under your plants. This can interfere with aeration and oxygen uptake.
Keep a two-foot space between the mulch and your home to discourage termite infestations. The two-foot rule also applies when mulching trees, as root rot can occur when the soil remains saturated around the tree's base. Make a point to remove and replace old mulch every few months, which reduces the likelihood of fungal diseases in the landscape.
When used correctly, mulching reduces weeds and greatly enhances the health of your garden plants.
You also will enjoy the nice, polished finish that only fresh mulch can provide.