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MULCHING BASICS

This page discusses the importance of mulching, especially in our warmer Gulf Coast environments and provides a comparison chart of various materials used for mulching purposes.  First, some basics.  Why mulch??

1.  Water retention - mulching plants is an effective way to hold available moisture in the root zone which in turn helps in conserving water and reduces the amount and frequency of necessary watering.

2.  Moderation of soil temperature -  keeps soil cooler in summer and warmer in winter to help avoid extremes in soil temperature change. 

3.  Weed growth prevention - reduces frequency of weeding and when weeds sprout ,  makes it easier to pull them.

4.  Soil Conditioning -  prevents erosion or soil compaction.  Decayed organic mulches add to soil nutrients and help acidify soil pH.

5.  Appearance -  mulching provides an attractive, finished look to any landscaped area and often provides a background to display plant features.

Organic mulches should be applied to 2 - 4 inch depths,  not be placed right against woody plant or tree trunks and will need to be periodically replaced.

Do not limit mulching to just around individual plants.  Mulch entire bedding areas in order to achieve all the benefits of mulching.

Mulches should be avoided around plants that require dry soil conditions.  The general guide is to think about the environmental conditions where the plant is native or naturally grows.  

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THE MATHEMATICS OF MULCH

Mulch can be purchased by 40 lb bags or delivered by the cu. yd.    Bagged mulches make sense for small areas and are measured in cu. ft.   For large areas, it is more economical to order mulch by truckload in cu. yds.  

To determine how much you need. - do the math.   As an example,  if your total area to be mulched is 100 ft. long by 10 ft. wide, and you want to place 3" of mulch on it,   multiply 100 x 10 = 1,000  sq ft.   3" = .25 ft,  so 1,000 sq. ft x .25 = 250 cu. ft.  There are 27 cu. ft in a cu. yd, so 250 / 27 =  9.26 cu yds or about 9-1/4 cu yds.

MULCH REFERENCE CHART

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Left: Organic hardwood mulch used for perennials, hardwood plants, and bare spaces for soil moisture retention.

Right: Inorganic small gravel is ideal for cacti, succulents and other dry climate xeriphytic plants for weed control.

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