Basic mulch/feeding question
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April 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm #28777
This can be confusing, particularly because what’s sold as "mulch" in many cases isn’t really very suitable for performing the full range of duties that I think mulch should accomplish: not just suppress weeds and slow moisture evaporation, but also break down into the underlying soil gradually and improve the soil’s texture.
You want a 2 or 3-inch layer, generally speaking, and if you use the right stuff, about half of that will work into the underlying soil before you go to replenish in fall or next spring.
Here’s what I advised last year in an old thread on the forums:
I used to use bagged mulches, including cocoa hulls and various bark products, many years ago. I have since switched to local materials I can have delivered in bulk, sans plastic bags (and minus all the fuel used in processing and trucking of bagged stuff across the nation to my local garden center). I think that environmentally, it’s important to buy locally when you can, especially with bulky items.
The qualities I want in a mulch: The material must be dark in color (I am a real fanatic about those hideous orangey dyed mulches, or against and dyed mulch in fact).
It must be fine textured so it looks good on the beds; forget anything that’s going to sit there and never break down like those big hunks of bark (which I call "baked potato mulch" because they look like giant spuds sitting on the ground to me).
It must already have been composted or aged: What I use is a composted stable bedding product–a local agricultural byproduct from horse or dairy farms that has been allowed to age. It’s simply wood shavings (not too fine, not too coarse) that farmers put on the floors of animal stalls to absorb manure and urine, and then muck out and compost.
The key: a product that has been aged or composted before you use it as mulch. That really makes a difference in the mulch being ready to to its job as a soil-improver, and will help you avoid the issue you are facing.
I expect you can find a local source via your county cooperative extension office; look at this website for a better sense of the kind of product I am talking about: http://sweetpeet.com/.
Leaf mold (partially rotted and shredded leaves) would be great, if your local landfill offers them, and there are many other such great choices. Again: You want something that has been composted first.
And for more details about pros and cons of different mulches, try the Cornell Cooperative Extension website (from NY State):
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