Mulching Adds Beauty and Prevents Moisture Loss
In Florida, spring is the time to mulch. It replenishes the earth, it protects plants from water loss due to evaporation and it complements the landscape through the use of color and texture.
But the questions I’m most frequently asked this time of year are which mulch to use, how much of it and what’s the best way to apply it.
Choosing a Mulch
There are lots of mulches on the market so you want to be smart about the choice you make. You want to consider what’s best for the earth and plants and what pleases you most cosmetically. Here are a couple of other things to think about; if you’re using it in an area where children play, rubber is a great choice for playground areas. Other areas of the landscape you also want to consider gravel and stone because they’re both long lasting and cosmetically attractive.
My preference is for pine straw because it mimics the natural forest floor so closely and our trees and plants need good organic soil to survive. I also like because it:
- Stays in place
- Suppresses weeds
- Has a 6 – 6.5 acidic level that’s perfect for plants
- Takes a year to breakdown and creates a great compost that’s good for soil
- Blooming plants love it
- Birds like to use for it for nests
Of course, in order to satisfy everyone’s aesthetic choices there are a great many mulches to choose from that work as well as pine straw and that are available in a wide variety of textures and colors. We carry all of them at our Big Earth Landscape Supply stores in Tampa, Palmetto, Bradenton and Sarasota including:
- Pine Straw
- Coco Brown
- Grade-A Cedar
- Grade-A Cypress
- Organic (hardwood)
- Pine Bark
- Pine Straw
- Recycled Hardwood
- Red Mulch
- Gravel & Stone
How Much Mulch To Use
To determine the amount of mulch you need, start by measuring the area you want to cover by multiplying its length by its width. This will give you the area in square feet.
Then decide the depth of the mulch you’ll need to cover the soil. If your garden’s in direct sun all day you’ll want more mulch than a garden that’s in shade. My rule of thumb is that two to three inches will usually do the job nicely.
To make all this simple, here a mulch calculator that will do the math for you.
How To Apply Your Mulch
Depending on the area you’re planning to mulch, you may want to pull or cut away weeds before laying down either landscaping fabric, plastic or even newspaper or cardboard – they’re both biodegradable – to slow the return of the weeds.
Your next step is to cut or install any edges or borders. This not only improves the cosmetics, it helps keep the mulch in place.
To make moving around your property with the mulch easier, I suggest using either a wheelbarrow or a trashcan with wheels. If you’re working from bags cut the top and try pouring it out. I also want to encourage everyone to recycle the empty mulch bags for garden waste instead of using plastic trash bags. Recycling is better for everyone’s garden.
You’ll do better spreading your mulch with a steel bow or tine rake rather than a lightweight leaf rake. Always leave some space around plants or tree trunks when mulching so they can breath and not get waterlogged. And wear gloves – you want to preserve the hands that work in the garden.
After your mulch is put down, give it a good soaking. Your garden will thank you for it!
About the Author:
Adam Rickert is president and CEO of Big Earth Landscape Supply, in western Florida. Big Earth Supply offers everything from rakes and gloves, to a wide variety of mulches in bags and in bulk – all in a wide assortment of colors and textures. His four stores cover markets from Sarasota through the Tampa Bay region of Florida’s west coast. Adam has over 20 years experience in the retail and wholesale landscape business.