Why use mulch? There are so many good reasons

by Kathy Warner
Nassau County Master Gardener My Nassau Sun Logo

Special/Nassau County Extension --

Is your water bill sky high? Do you want to conserve water, improve your landscape and save money at the same time? Use mulch!

Why use mulch?

• Cuts down on watering.

• Prevents erosion.

• Insulates plant roots.

• Improves soil quality.

• Reduces weeds.

• Reduces maintenance.

• Improves appearance.

What types of mulch are available?
• Shredded leaves: An excellent soil builder and quick to decay. Often weed-free.

• Grass clippings: An excellent — and free — soil builder. Breaks down quickly, but keep the layers thin (no more than 2 inches). If your lawn is weedy, grass clippings will be a source of weed seed.

• Seed hulls (cocoa, rice): Easy to spread, often weed-free, but slow to decay and susceptible to erosion.

• Pine needles: Weed-free and slow to break down. Good for use around trees and shrubs, but not around flowers, perennial beds or vegetables.

• Shredded bark: Very slow to decay, weed-free, good for use on paths, around trees, shrubs.

• Bark nuggets: Very slow to decay, weed-free, good for use on paths and around trees and shrubs.

• Wood chips: Very slow to decay, weed-free, good for use on paths, around trees, shrubs.

• Cypress mulch: Although widely available, may not a good environmental choice. Cypress are slow-growing native wetland trees that are often taken as whole, mature trees and chipped into mulch to help meet market demand. The enormous amounts of cypress mulch produced each year threaten the survival of this native Florida tree.

• Melaleuca mulch: Provides additional benefits as an environmentally friendly product. Melaleuca is a tree native to Australia that was introduced to South Florida in the 1920s as a way to dry up the Everglades. Because of its quick proliferation, it destroys native vegetation. By purchasing Melaleuca mulch instead of cypress, you are helping to return natural areas to their native environmental condition, restore the cypress population and heal the Florida wetlands.

• Pebbles or stones: Do not decay nor require frequent replacement. Are weed-free, but often contribute to compaction of soil around roots of trees and shrubs. Do not hold moisture, but reflect and radiate heat.

• Rubber mulch: Allows water drainage, is not attractive to insects. Is softer than other mulches, making an excellent groundcover for parks and children’s playgrounds.

How to mulch
For best results, spread 2 to 4 inches of mulch on plant beds. Keep the mulch several inches away from the plant stems to protect the stems from rotting. Gradually increase the thickness of the mulch layer going out from the plant.


Melaleuca tree
Special/Nassau County Extension -- Melaleuca Tree, an Australian-native, was introduced into the Florida Everglades and is now classified an invasive species. Purchasing Melaleuca mulch instead of cypress is an environmentally friendly choice.



Master Gardener volunteers are trained by County Horticultural Extension agents and are required to serve 75 volunteer hours in year one of their accreditation and 50 volunteer hours annually in all subsequent years to maintain their certification.

Nassau County master gardeners serve under the direction of Rebecca L. Jordi, UF/IFAS Nassau County Horticultural Extension Agent. For information on the master gardener program and application requirements, contact Jordi at 548-1116 or rljordi@ufl.edu.



Kathy Warner

Kathy Warner is an Amelia Island resident and an active master gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.