By Janine Salvatti
Master Gardener 2019
Mulching is a perfect task for October and November. You’d think that’s enough said but not so quick! There is a lot of discussion about preferred mulching options. The only thing that is universally agreed upon is that no bare ground should be exposed. Foil those weed seeds, protect plant roots and crowns from freezing, and feed soil and soil critters.
You might have noticed that mulches are subject to trends. In recent years, dark colored mulches and rubber mulches have been popular. The former strictly for aesthetics and the latter for eternal life.
Dark colored mulches have been dyed and this chemical treatment leaches into the soil. It is toxic.
Mulches made from wood waste such as treated lumber are toxic. Fencing lumber is an example. Know the source.
Mulches of rubber products…well, old tires are toxic.
Living Mulch: The best alternative is living plant material to protect bare ground. Cover crops for veggie patches and ground cover or lower growing plants to shade out weed seed germination in our ornamental beds. Living mulch may not be feasible for some situations and can be costly to buy sufficient plants to do the job. You up for a little propagation? Your existing plants could be the answer and the price is right!
Also, think about swapping with neighbors.
Bark, leaves, straw, aged manure (from a chemical free sources): So many good choices! Bark by the bag or in bulk. Leaves, size matters. Large leaves are good homes for slugs. Shredded are best so get out your mower and run over them a couple of times or pick-up a relatively inexpensive shredder. Leaves are generally chemical-free, plentiful, free, and coming to a yard near you this month!
Gravel, tumbled glass, or limited use of permeable landscape fabric. Inert, long-lasting, and a broad range of sizes and colors. Something for every garden style and budget.
Okay, repeat with me, “no bare ground”!