The Great Mulch Debate
Lately there has been a huge controversy over the use of Cypress mulch for gardening. Cypress mulch has been used for some time and was always a by-product of the lumber industry. Issues have arisen when the industry changed its harvesting policies and living native Cypress trees began being cut down just for mulch. Native Cypress groves in the states of Florida and Louisiana are important as hurricane and flood barriers as well as habitats for wildlife.
Cypress doesn’t make very good mulch either. It has a tendency to matt down and form a barrier which makes it difficult for water and nutrients to get through to your soil and plants. One of the many benefits of having mulch in your flower bed is that it breaks down and improves your soil over time. Cypress doesn’t break down well, which is good if you never want to mulch again, but bad if you’re trying to develop the nutrient rich soil that roses love.
Both shredded pine and shredded hardwood mulch break down well. The shredded hardwood will break down slightly faster. Both types of mulch will improve your rose bed soil over time. Since these two types of mulch break down quickly you’re more likely to find a weird looking fungus growing in your rose bed mulch, but for most gardeners this isn’t a huge concern. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of using shredded pine or hardwood mulch you can contact the manufacturer to insure the mulch was produced as a lumber industry by-product.
A newer choice on the market and one that isn’t available at all geographic locations is Melaleuca mulch. Melaleuca trees are an invasive species of tree which are now illegal to plant in the United States. This tree was brought into south Florida and has taken over the Everglades, damaging the water, land and destroying native trees and wildlife. One upside to the story is that Melaleuca makes excellent mulch and is usually well priced where available. This mulch is truly for the environmentally conscious since there is no other use for these invasive trees once they’re removed. Melaleuca mulch is reportedly good at holding in moisture and recent studies are showing that termites seem to dislike it as well.
Pine bark nuggets are another mulch choice. Many people don’t like the nuggets however, since they easily blow or float away and don’t break down easily. Pine bark nuggets are a by-product of the milling industry, which makes them more environmentally friendly than other mulch choices. As an added bonus, if you’re looking for an inexpensive mulch choice, pine bark nuggets are usually reasonably priced.
Aside from the mulches listed above, which is only a portion of what's available, you may also have a free mulch source in your local area. If you live near a baseball bat factory, pecan processing plant, lumber mill or similar industry you can often pick up mulch with a pickup truck or trailer for free or a small fee. It’s definitely something to check out, your favorite mulch could be found right up the road for hardly a penny.
Most rose gardeners agree that mulch helps conserve water, and discourages pests and diseases. However, the type of mulch to use is always up for debate. Spend a bit of time finding the right mulch for your needs, do a bit of research as to its origins, and you’ll have the perfect mulch for your roses and the environment.
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