Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mulching your summer garden

South Carolina environments can either be a plants best friend or worst enemy depending on what type of soil you have. Making amendments to your soil may be the only way to yield any good results from your growing efforts. There are many types of mulch that is available free or for purchase for you southern garden.

Bark Mulch
Shredded wood used as mulch. This type of mulc...Image via WikipediaThis type of mulch typically has to be purchased somewhere and although it comes in a wide variety of colors to aesthetically enhance your garden it does have a few draw backs. Bark mulch is fairly pricey, doesn't decompose as quickly as some. Some types of bark/wood mulch can attract pests such as roaches and termites. Make sure not to place it too close to your homes foundation. Bark mulch is also susceptible to molds and fungus that could if touching the base of your plant kill it.

Pine Straw
Pine needles used as mulch. Also called "...Image via WikipediaPine straw mulch has been a southern favorite for many many years throughout the south. It is lightweight, easy to use, is readily available and allows for air circulation. As time goes by pine straw breaks down rather quickly and decomposed into the soil requiring more applications. Like bark mulches pine straw does harbor insects, and it is not uncommon to find roaches and other types of pests underneath a batch of pine straw.

Synthetic mulch
Synthetic mulches retain their color, come in a wide variety of colors and do not decompose over time like organic mulch. Ideally suited for beds that are close to the foundation of your home due to inability to rot or mold. Black plastic landscaping material is great up against the home, and placing synthetic mulch that mimics shredded bark mulch is a great choice. As with any type of plastic, it can become very hot in summer so make sure there are sufficient holes to allow for rain and airflow. With vegetable gardens, it is generally best to avoid synthetic mulches since there is ongoing debate on the chemicals of synthetic mulch leaching into the ground and because they are not biodegradable, there is no telling where it could end up years down the road.

Gravel and stone mulch
GravelImage by James Bowe via FlickrPossibly the best choice for overall weed suppression especially if used in conjunction with plastic landscape fabric underneath. Stone may absorb heat on the top, but usually maintain a cool temperature underneath. Make sure to use porous landcaping fabric. If water is puddling anywhere in the bed, you may not have enough holes, add some easily with a pitch fork or other garden tool.
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