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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

  • Peanut shells, cocoa hulls, pine bark and needles, and rubber make great mulch.

Think local

Local resources such as straw, peanut and pecan shells, corn husks, chemical-free sawdust, or composted manures work well as mulch. Some tree service companies will unload truckloads of chippings at your doorstep. When using freshly chipped wood, be sure to add a nitrogen fertilizer to offset decaying wood’s tendency to tie up soil nitrogen. Also call around to local landfills and recycling centers. Many provide free tree waste mulch.

Make your own

Shred nonglossy newspaper and spread it several inches thick, then dampen and cover with a thin layer of wood mulch or grass clippings. To block weeds further, lay down several full sheets of newspaper.

Instead of bagging, shred autumn leaves with a mower. Compost the leaves for a season into “leaf mold” or spread in a loose, six-inch mulch layer that will compost in place. Other lawn materials such as fallen twigs, hedge trimmings, and Spanish moss also make fine mulches.

Mulching tips

You can have too much of a good thing. Overly thick mulches can suffocate roots. Most mulches work best in two- to four-inch blankets.

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