I LOVE TO MULCH. It’s relaxing; I’m outdoors and can see the immediate results of my labor! It’s multitasking too: mulching while thinking about installing microirrigation in a landscape bed, starting seeds, what to divide, relocate or conquer. Early morning, before the heat of the day, is a great time to add mulch to your landscape beds.

Mulch is beneficial because it retains moisture and adds nutrients to the soil, suppresses weeds, moderates soil temperature, reduces runoff and erosion from your yard, provides increased area for root growth, protects plants from lawn mowers and weed eaters and enhances the beauty of your landscape.

Mulch can be organic or inorganic. The focus of this article is organic mulches, which include:

Pine bark, timber industry by-product, good color retention. Purchase the medium or small size as the large size tends to float away in a heavy rain.

Pine straw settles quickly, timber industry by-product.

Eucalyptus, produced from Florida plantations, light reddish-brown color, minimal settling over time.

Melaleuca, high termite resistance, almost no settling over time, produced from an invasive, non-native tree.

Oak leaves, free mulch source, minimal settling over time, create ‘self-mulching’ areas under trees.

Municipal yard waste will be available at county recycling facilities when they reopen.

The University of Florida (UF) does not recommend cypress mulch because it’s not a renewable resource.

Next month, my article will focus on inorganic mulches and termites.

Mulch the entire landscape bed. Wood and bark mulches should be 3 inches deep after settling. Mulch newly set plants after they are planted and watered. Reapply mulch around established plants as needed to maintain the 3-inch depth. Pull mulch 2 inches away from stems to prevent rotting.

When mulching under a tree, apply a 1-inch layer over the root ball if necessary, but keep the mulch at least 10 inches from the trunk. Improper mulching can cause trunk rot, cut off oxygen to the roots and in some trees it may cause stem girdling.

How much mulch should you buy and apply? We have the answer! Just email me at labarber@ufl.edu and I will email a copy of the Mulch Coverage Guide to you.

Enjoy the beautiful weather and spruce up your landscape beds at the same time! Happy mulching!

For assistance with horticultural questions, contact Hillsborough County Extension at 744-5519. Although our office is closed, we are working from alternative locations. Remember to reduce, reuse, recycle and repeat. Be safe out there!