My question is the following. I have several isles on my lawn. These
have different types of plants, some are Japanese maples, ornamental
grass etc... I was wondering what type of mulch would be best to put
on these isles. I have used, in the past, a mulch that had a red tint-
that is tinted mulch. I no longer want to use that. I have looked at
cedar mulch but was wondering if there is a better alternative than
cedar mulch. I am located in the North Eastern part of USA.
THanks for your help!
The regulars will give you lots of good suggestions, but my preference is
for pine bark mini-nuggets. I use them everywhere, including my "isles", and
they look good and last a long time.
on Cape Cod
Around here pine bark nuggets invite termites and other undesireable
insects Most popular mulch used in this area or the southeast is
cypress mulch (shredded, and it knits together somewhat and does not
blow around or float away in a heavy rain and lasts forever but still
maintains an open structure for plants to breathe and water to
penetrate) or pine straw, which needs to be removed ever couple of
eyars as it compacts and keeps water penetration out as well as
keeping weeds down......cypress mulch is available in many tnted
colors here as well. I prefer the natural color or dark brown. I have
never seen cedar mulch.
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Some do and then only slightly and they greatly increase the humus in
the soil. A net plus. I have a friend that hybridizes and grows
thousands of rhododendrons. He uses sawdust as a mulch. Most people say
that is a no no and robs nitrogen from the soil. Well, the
rhododendrons don't know that and love it. As long as the sawdust in
not incorporated into the soil, it rots so slowly that it doesn't use
much nitrogen. He uses a little HollyTone when the plants get bigger
and they look as good as anybody's.
Most organic mulches actually increase the fertility of the soil. Grass
clippings probably provide nutrients more quickly than other organic
mulches. Sawdust is at the other end of the scale as it will require
nitrogen from a source outside itself to break down into usable
nutrients and humus. When we put sawdust in contact with the soil the
soil organisms multiply rapidly. To multiply they need nitrogen. Since
it is not available in the sawdust they use nitrogen that is already in
the soil. If the nitrogen supply in the soil is insufficient, the
population of organisms doesnt reach its full potential and the sawdust
is converted more slowly. Of greater importance, the soil is deficient
in nitrogen for the plants and they will suffer.
The most important thing to keep in mind regarding soil fertility and
mulch is the carbon-nitrogen ratio. The carbon-nitrogen ratio of sawdust
is 400:1, for example, while young sweet clover is 12:1. An average bale
of hay might be 80:1 while rotted manure might be 20:1. A substance that
has a C:N ratio below 17:1 will actually add nitrogen to the soil while
a ratio above 33:1 will take nitrogen from the soil. Between those two
figures the result is neutral. Grass clippings might have a ratio of
16:1 but if the plant is allowed to grow to maturity the ratio for the
same plant might go to 30:1 or 40:1. If the plant starts to dry, the
ratio goes even higher. Once dried as hay the ratio will be in the
vicinity of 80:1.
One other factor to keep in mind regarding the C:N ratio. If the
material is just going to be used as a mulch, the amount of interface
with the soil is limited to the soil surface. It is when a high C:N
ratio material is incorporated into the soil that the temporary loss of
nitrogen can become severe. You may use a sawdust mulch on a section of
the garden one year and have no problems. If you turn it under the next
year, you want to make sure to incorporate some additional nitrogen at
the same time.
Materials from trees have the potential for lowering the pH of the
soil--making it more acidic. Leaves, sawdust and wood shavings are
acidic, however, in the process of becoming humus, they move toward a
higher pH. Also, it seems the more humus in the soil the wider the band
on the pH scale that is acceptable to plants.
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