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pink flowering plant enhances the entrance to home garden

Making All Things New

I’ve found time this spring to spruce up the home landscape. Nothing strenuous, just a little digging, dividing, transplanting and weeding every day.  As a reward for a well weeded patch, I treat myself to  mulch. Bulk, bagged or a combination, putting out fresh layer of mulch gives me a sense of accomplishment. At minimum, mulching the edge of landscaped beds brightens and refreshes the area until plants grow up and fill in. This spring, my garden looks new. Besides being pretty, organic mulch provides long term soil health benefits to infertile, droughty soils.

Improve structure of sandy and clayey soils.

Soil microbes benefit during decomposition and are important to the soil food web. Decomposing mulch provides a slowly available source of plant nutrients. Excessive fertilizer use has caused concerns about impairment of water bodies in Florida. There are no short cuts, fertilize appropriately.

Mulch moderates soil temperature and insulates roots from heat and cold.

Freshen mulch layers to bury weed seed and prevent compaction. If starting your garden from seed, hold off on mulch as plants may not have enough energy to push through. Bare ground marks the spot where recently I planted caladium. Once leaves erupt, I’ll put out a thin layer (1/2 to 1 inch) of shredded mulch.

mounding mulch around tree trunks may negatively impact tree health.

Keep trees healthy. Avoid volcano mulching.

Water less often.

Mulch shields soil and prevents water from evaporating from soil surface as quickly. This is ideal around those newly planted areas. Now’s a good time to put in a wide mulched ‘safety zone’ to keep mowers and string trimmers away from trunks. Avoid volcano mulching by pulling mulch 2-3 inches away from tree trunks. Blowing or raking mulch against tree trunk may contribute to trunk rot, cut off oxygen and prevent gas exchange to the roots, contribute to girdling roots and may keep roots too wet in poorly drained soils.

Bulk mulch by cubic yard.

Once cubic yard covers approximately 160 square feet at 2 inch depth. Calculate how much you’ll need, multiply landscape bed length x width x mulch depth divided by 27 = cubic yards.  Example, 18’  x 7’  x .25’ (three inch mulch depth) / 27.  One cubic yard of mulch is 27 cubic feet. Most bagged mulch holds 2 cubic feet. For this example, the man of the mower purchased 14 bags.  Organic mulches include hard wood nugget, melaleuca; chipped or shredded, pecan shells, peanut hulls, eucalyptus and pine straw. There’s black dyed mulch. And red dyed mulch, natural melaleuca griege and the mottled browns of hardwood.

Use what’s available.

Pulverized fallen oak leaves decompose quickly and returns valuable nutrients to the soil. Establishing a self mulching area is a Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL) practice. Some plants tolerate dense shade . Mulched pathways are an alternative for difficult to maintain turf strips. Mulch requires annual maintenance. Stone, shell, rock and inorganic mulch will need cleaning.

FFL principles encourage the use of environmentally sustainable practices to achieve attractive landscapes and protect Florida natural resources. Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) and fire spike (Odontonema strictum) have been divided, transplanted and mulched this spring. Some plants may be invasive in your area. Verify with the local extension office. With the right plants in the right place, I’ll enjoy the garden more and spend less time pruning, watering and fertilizing over the next few years. I wonder, do you have a favorite, reliable performer in the spring garden? Please leave a reply, let me know. I’m always looking to expand my plant palette!  Until next time – Stay Safe, Remain Vigilant, Spread Joy.

EDIS is the Electronic Data Information Source of UF/IFAS Extension. More on mulch, here.
The Facts About Termites and Mulch, EDIS publication ENY-832

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