MASTER GARDENER — Mulch is a gardener’s best friend (Part 2 of 2) – Orange Leader

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Hello fellow gardening enthusiasts!

Last week I discussed the basics of organic mulch, including the importance of using mulch in our gardens, as well as the many types of mulch.

Some gardeners make their own mulch at home using a compost bin or two, then build compost by adding garden debris, grass clippings, leaves, branches, used potting soil, dead plant matter, livestock manure, topsoil, hay and straw.

They continue to add debris to the compost bin, building up layers of green and brown material, then turning its contents every few weeks, allowing it to decompose over time. In 6-12 months, the compost will have completed the cycle of decomposition and a rich, dark, crumbly compost will be ready to be added to vegetable beds and flower gardens.

My preference is much faster, depending on the gardening project, is to buy mulch in bags or in bulk (delivery). Mulch bags are easy to handle and can easily be moved around with a wheelbarrow or garden cart.

The price of a bag of mulch is low and can often be purchased on sale during the spring and summer at many hardware and farm supply stores. Most big-box stores offer customers the option to purchase mulch and other spoil amendments in bulk (truck load) and have it delivered.

If mulch is readily available, then you may wonder, how do you decide which type of mulch is best for you?

Choosing the right type of mulch to use in your garden is not a difficult decision to make and there is no wrong answer as all organic mulches will ultimately provide benefits to the soil. I’ll help you navigate the most common types of mulches available and provide you with some of the pros and cons of the most common mulches sold locally.

Keep in mind that almost any organic plant material can be used as a mulch. We’ve already reviewed organic mulches, so let’s continue the discussion with synthetic mulches and where they can be used.

Rubber mulch is heavier than wood mulches and lasts 10-20 years. It will not break down, so there is no benefit to the soil or its microorganisms. Rubber mulches retain heat and are not the best choice for Southeast Texas gardens. If used, you will need to fertilize more often.

A black plastic tarp over the surface of your garden soil will keep moisture from evaporating, while smothering weeds trying to sprout. Weeds will grow in areas that the plastic does not cover.

It’s good for large vegetable gardens, raising soil temperature 3-5°F at a depth of about 6 inches, warming soils earlier in the spring, allowing earlier harvest of vegetables.

Foundation plantings. A space of 6 inches from the foundation of your home should remain free of plants and mulch. This will help keep bugs out of the house. Placing inorganic mulches, such as fine gravel, crushed limestone, river rock, or lava rock in this area will help keep the area clear.

Trees and shrubs. If you find it necessary to mulch around trees and shrubs, please use the mulch efficiently so that plants and trees do not compete for available water and nutrient resources. Coarse bark, wood chips, or river rocks make good mulch for trees and shrubs, but don’t layer more than 3 inches of mulch so surface roots of trees and shrubs don’t grow into the soil. mulch.

Flowerbeds (annuals and perennials). Use chopped leaves, shredded bark and compost. Fine-textured mulches that are easy to spread and incorporate are best in these areas. Apply a layer 2 to 3 inches thick. Start with a layer of compost and then add one of the other mulches, which provides the plants with the nutrients they need.

Vegetable gardens. Enjoy dried grass clippings, newspapers, cardboard, compost, and hay or straw (no seeds or weeds of course). Once your garden is planted, spread the newspaper/cardboard around your plants, cover with compost, then hay or grass clippings.

Containers. Consider decorative glass marbles, pebbles, clay balls or moss. Just a little scattered over the surface of the potting mix creates a finished look and helps retain moisture. Get creative with glass pebbles that add a unique look to your container. When finished, wash them and store them for another use.

John Green is a Certified Master Gardener from Orange County, Texas. If you have specific gardening questions or need more information, call the Orange County Master Gardeners Helpline at 409-882-7010, visit txmg.org/orangesearch Facebook Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association or email extension@co.orange.tx.us.

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