Mind Your Mulch: Eco-friendly Mulch

The right mulch can add aesthetic value and save water in your garden. Just make sure you’re choosing wisely.

| March/April 2003

It’s one of the basics of any garden. Mulch blocks weeds, regulates soil temperature and moisture, fights erosion, and keeps gardens looking neat and trim. Yet some mulch can actually harm your plants and the environment. By minding your mulches, you can find mulch that is both garden- and eco-friendly.

A mulch to avoid

Shredded cypress is one of the most popular mulches on the market. However, this relatively low-priced mulch comes with high environmental costs. According to University of Florida data, timber companies grind some 129,000 tons of the state’s cypress into mulch each year, part of a cycle that takes nearly 3 million more cubic feet of cypress than it replaces.

Cypress thrives in freshwater wetlands, where it stores and filters water resources and provides a vital wildlife habitat. This graceful native tree grows slowly and, once cut, is difficult to replace. Today logging companies clear-cut younger stands, and though mill remnants make up some cypress mulch products, entire trees make up others.

Cypress also has some mulching drawbacks. Shredded cypress, like many other shredded woods, will fade in color and decay within a year or two. Cypress mulches can also form fungal mats that inhibit water drainage.

Eco-friendly mulches

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