The Magic of Mulch in the Landscape

Utilizing mulch in your yard is a cost-effective tool that is so often overlooked. It’s surprising to see how many landscapes lack the benefits of mulch. Proper mulching is crucial for any Florida-Friendly landscape. By adding mulch, you can save water, suppress weeds, enrich soil, and enhance the overall appearance of your yard. Don’t miss out on the magic of mulch!

Detail of garden path with stone slabs with bark mulch. Credit: Brebca on Adobe Stock Images

Adding organic, sustainably sourced mulch like pine bark nuggets or pine straw to your landscape is a game-changer.

Pine needle mulch, also known as pine straw, is a byproduct of the lumber industry. Credit: Jillian Cain on Adobe Stock Images

Not only does it enhance the beauty of your surroundings, but it also works tirelessly to make your landscape effortlessly low maintenance.  A 2-3” layer of mulch will:


  • Retain soil moisture at the roots of the plants
  • Add nutrients to the soil as it breaks down
  • Suppress weeds
  • Provide an environment for beneficial soil bacteria
  • Increase soil organic matter and water holding capacity
  • Help protect plant roots from extreme hot & cold temperatures
  • Reduce erosion
  • Protect plants from some soil borne diseases

I trust that you are now contemplating the addition of mulch to your yard. However, you may be curious about the types available, quantity required and the associated expenses.

Firstly, you should know that not all mulch is created equal.

Stones as a mulch offer no benefit to soil health.
Credit: Munka on Adobe Stock Images

Mulch is commercially available in two forms: organic and inorganic. Sustainable organic mulch is sourced as a by-product from the lumber-milling industry, land clearing and tree trimming, invasive control programs, municipal waste collection, and controlled, renewable planting on plantations. On the other hand, inorganic mulches can be made from natural materials such as pebbles or rocks, but they are also sometimes made of manufactured materials, like ground rubber tires. While these inorganic mulches can be suitable for pathways or under the eaves of a house, they should not be used as a replacement for organic mulches in planting beds. This is because they do not contribute to wildlife habitat or soil health, and they can cause the roots beneath the mulch to become excessively hot.


When it comes to cypress mulch, caution should be exercised.

While it is sometimes made from waste wood generated in the lumber trade, it can also be produced from whole trees cut from wetlands. Due to the difficulty in determining its origins, the use of cypress mulch is not recommended. It’s important to be vigilant when purchasing bagged dyed mulches, as many of them may contain cypress. Therefore, it is advisable to read the label closely before making a purchase.

As for how much you’ll need, UF research indicates that the optimal depth of mulch, after settling, is 2-3″.

Bulk mulch is an economical option for large spaces. Credit: Ozgur Coskun on Adobe Stock Images

Additionally, it is recommended to keep the mulch at a distance of 12-18″ from the base of all trees. It is crucial to avoid piling it excessively against the trunk, as this practice, known as “volcano mulching,” can lead to detrimental consequences such as rot and insect infestations.


If you only need a little, buying it by the bag is convenient but can be more costly.  Bulk mulch is sold at nurseries and landscape suppliers by the cubic yard, and if you need a large amount it can be delivered to you.  There are also some free options: contact your local tree trimming or utility company and ask if they will dump a load of wood chips for you after their next job.

There are also online options that coordinate free drops on your behalf. The crews won’t drop partial loads, so be ready to accept a huge pile up to 20 cubic yards! Fallen leaves can be raked up for free in your landscape and spread along pathways and at the base of trees and plants.

Tree service branch chipper and dump truck with wood chips. Credit: Wlodzimierz on Adobe Stock Images

One thing to keep in mind about weed barrier: Weed barrier fabric may seem like a good idea, but it can actually inhibit the mulch from breaking down into the soil and create unfavorable conditions below the fabric.  So, skip the weed barrier and let the mulch work its magic on its own.


Overall, adding mulch to your landscape can work miracles

in creating a healthy, low-maintenance and visually appealing yard. Give mulch a try and see the miracles it can work for you!  For more information about the Florida Friendly Landscaping Program, visit or call (904)-255-7450.



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Posted: November 21, 2023

Category: Agriculture, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Home Landscapes, Horticulture, Lawn
Tags: Conserve Water, Duval, FFL, Florida Friendly Landscaping, Landscape Design, Landscape Maintenance, Low Maintenance, Mulching, Soil Health

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