Mulch – Underutilized Resource in Leon County
July 31, 2015
By: Glenn Mayne and Fred Q. Vroom
Yard Debris. Photo by Fred Q. Vroom
In Leon County, with its multi-faceted canopy of indigenous trees, there is an abundance of mulch available from November through April. This highly valuable resource is categorically being raked, bagged and set out as trash all over town. What a waste! As depicted in the picture, these bags of mulch have a value: Based on calculations by my friend and fellow Master Gardener, Dr. Fred Vroom, it is estimated that one bag of yard debris can be worth ten to fifteen dollars in mulch and fertilizer for your yard.
While one can certainly take issue with the derivation of this value, let’s consider the five points that Master Gardeners see as attributable to mulch in beds and gardens:
Mulch – 1) retains moisture, 2) effective in weed control 3) adds essential nutrients back into the soil, 4) moderates soil temperature, 5) prevents erosion.
These attributes have become the call to arms for Master Gardeners, who see bags of valuable mulch piled up along the curb of most every street in town, lined up like soldiers at parade rest, all headed to the dump, where this transport costs taxpayers money and where it will likely not do much good. To the credit of our Leon County Solid Waste Management Department, it is possible for citizens to drive to Leon County Waste Center located at 7550 Apalachee Parkway and pick up both fine and coarse mulch for use on their property.
Many Master Gardeners will make it a habit to stop and pick up bags of mulch as they drive around town, for use on their property. One elderly gentleman in north Tallahassee carefully bags the mulch from his entire yard and stacks it out front for trash pickup. As it is on my way, I stop and get a truck full each fall. One day, as I was loading up my truck with the fruits of his labor, he walked out and in a nice way, said, “I just want to know where you are when the raking is going on?” Feeling guilty, the next fall, I did go by and help with the raking!
Master Gardeners have a motto, “let no leaf leave your yard,” which is our way of saying utilize all of the mulch that falls onto your property. Whether utilized as mulch in flower beds, vegetable gardens, ornamental shrubbery beds or used to keep weed growth down at the bottom of a fence, we highly recommend adhering to this motto. Another advantage is yard debris is less likely to wash off, contaminating our springs and water ways than applications of chemical fertilizers do. Please help our natural environment by keeping all leaf and straw mulch materials on your property and put them to use in the way nature intended!
Glenn Mayne, Physicist and Fred Q. Vroom M.D., both Master Gardener volunteers with the UF/Leon County Cooperative Extension Office. You may also email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov with any gardening questions you may have.
Also watch on WFSU’s TV show Dimension, Stan Rosenthal talk with Carole Gentry at the Leon County Solid Waste Management Facility about what they do with the yard debris they pick up. http://wfsu.org/dimensions/viewvideo.php?num=156