How Mulch Helps Soil
We live in a state with arguably one of the worst soils in the U.S. but that doesn’t mean our hands are tied. There are many things we can do to improve Florida’s sandy, infertile soils that don’t require intensive inputs or fertilizers – mulch being one of the top suggestions.
In fact, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF IFAS), mulching is one of the nine principles for creating a Florida-friendly yard.
How Mulch Can Improve Your Soil
Most of us are aware of the benefits of mulch – like helping to conserve water and retain moisture, protecting our plants from the hot summer heat, and inhibiting weed growth that may compete with your plants – but, what many don’t realize is the positive impact adding mulch has to improve your soil.
Mulch Adds Necessary Nutrients to Soil
Outdoor plants need three main things to survive – light, water, and nutrients. In Florida, we have a great warm climate that many plants love and because of our great location, we get tons of sunlight. In addition to that, we have an abundance of rainfall every year that helps to keep your plants moist and happy. Assuming your plants are planted in the right location, they should be getting plenty of their first two needs, light and water, but it’s their third need, nutrients, that most Florida gardeners and farmers struggle with.
With the exception of a few locations, the majority of our Florida soil is primarily made up of sand. While sand is great at the beach, the problem with our sandy soils is that they drain very quickly and don’t hold onto nutrients for very long. As a result, many people have turned to chemical fertilizers or unnatural inputs to re-add nutrients to their plants, if only for a short time. But, there is a better way – a few actually.
We may tackle some of the other ways to improve your soil, like adding compost or including cover crops in your landscape in a future post but for the sake of this article, we are going to focus primarily on how adding mulch positively benefits your soil.
The Benefits of Mulch in Florida’s Sandy Soil
We’ve established that adding a thick layer (3-4 inches) of mulch around our plants helps to keep the soil beneath from getting too hot and drying out but, beyond that, as the mulch decomposes, it can actually add nutrients to your soil.
Check out this abstract from UConn’s Home & Garden Education Center:
“As organic mulches decompose, they add nutrients and organic matter to the soil and beneficial microorganisms like nitrifying bacteria and mycorrhizal fungi are enhanced while undesirable pathogens – those that cause plant diseases are inhibited. Increased amounts of organic matter will improve soil tilth and drainage, increase soil moisture retention, reduce soil compaction, and attract earthworms. Because organic mulches decompose, they need to be replaced. Depending on the type of mulch used, replacement intervals vary from one to four years.”
In other words, as organic mulches break down, they add beneficial nutrients to your soil and the surrounding plants while protecting them against disease and other problems – as long as they’re being added on a regular basis.
You don’t always have to buy mulch either. You can use leaves, grass clippings, cut branches, and even shredded cardboard. But, be careful, as some of these items may not be screened for weed seeds or may cause unintended challenges if they have been previously treated with pesticides or other chemicals.
Improve Your Soil With Gaston Mulch
While it may seem too good to be true, adding a couple of inches of mulch can make a huge difference in protecting your plants and improving the soil in your landscape.
At Gaston Mulch and Soil, our mulch is made by the collection, processing, grinding, and filtering of hundreds of thousands of tons of organic tree debris that our partner service, Gaston Tree Debris Recycling, gathers each year. By recycling that debris and transforming it into a valuable landscaping product, we are giving it a second chance to add nutrients back into the soil and improve our state for future generations.
Contact the Gaston team today. We’d love to discuss how the addition of Gaston Mulch can help you improve the soil in your landscape. We offer bulk quantities of mulch and can even deliver right to your North Florida home or business.