MulchOutdoors March 12, 2019
Mulch is a very important tool in any gardeners’ toolkit. In addition, it does a lot more than simply make beds look nicer. Mulch serves a variety of different purposes that are beneficial to plants around your house. Let’s talk about the different types of mulch that are out there and how they can help you have healthy plants.
There are many different types of mulches out there. Some of the most common kinds of mulches are bark, compost, leaves, newspaper, pine needles, straw, and wood chips. If you are using bark for mulch usually small chunks is going to be better because large chunks are more susceptible to being washed away. Compost can be a very beneficial mulch. What separates compost from the other mulches on this list is that compost is capable of providing nitrogen to plants. Leaves are a good cheap source of mulch for many people. Many times, there’s nothing wrong with taking leaves that have fallen and applying them around the base of plants. The only time when applying leaves as a mulch is not a good idea is if the leaves have a disease in them. Those leaves should be removed to prevent the disease from spreading to the next season. It’s also good if you can shred the leaves before applying them so that they don’t become matted. Newspaper serves as a good undermulch. Placing pine needles or straw on top will keep the newspaper from blowing away. Pine needles look good as mulch. They can make the soil more acidic over time, but that is a slow process. Straw can be an effective mulch, but it’s not as long lasting as some of the other mulches described here. Straw will also sometimes contain weed seeds. Wood chips are a long lasting mulch. They can last two years.
One of the benefits of mulch is weed suppression. When it’s applied thick enough, mulch creates a barrier that blocks sunlight and creates a physical barrier preventing unwanted plants from growing. Once summer is in full effect mulch can go a long way to make your job of weeding easier. Mulch can help with disease suppression in the case of mummyberry on blueberries. Mulch will bury the disease.
Mulch also benefits moisture retention in the soil. When there are hot dry summers the mulch will serve as insulation against the sun and the wind, reducing the amount of water that is lost. The insulation from mulch also helps moderate soil temperatures. That doesn’t mean mulch can keep your soil from freezing, but it can give you a buffer of a few degrees if temperatures are fluctuating.
One thing to keep in mind when applying mulch is the carbon to nitrogen ratio. Most mulches are very high in carbon. For the microbes in soil to decompose mulch they need nitrogen. So, if you apply a lot of wood chips as mulch, those microbes in the soil will need all the nitrogen to break down the mulch, meaning your plants aren’t going to get as much nitrogen. So adding some extra nitrogen to the soil will be beneficial to the mulch and your plants.
Most mulch should be applied 3 to 4 inches. 5 inches for pine needles and 2 inches for wood chips. If you have any questions about mulches contact your local Extension Office or email me at [email protected].
Erosion ControlOutdoors February 26, 2019
Georgia, along with much of the southeastern US, don’t have a positive past with erosion. Repetitive
cropping of cotton in the piedmont resulted in seven inches of topsoil being washed away into the
ocean. Soil takes hundreds of years to create, meaning that the loss of soil is something that will be
felt for generations. By the 1950s, new policies and programs began to change Georgia from endless
cotton fields to forestland and other uses that are less susceptible to erosion. In the mountains, there is
always a threat of erosion if we aren’t proactive with protecting our landscape. Let’s talk about why we
should care about erosion and some things that you can do to make sure that your land isn’t eroded
With the high amount of rainfall that we receive in the mountains, erosion caused by water is the
biggest concern that we have, so I’ll focus on that. Erosion is also caused by wind and gravity. According
to the US Department of Agriculture, 2 billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the US because of
erosion. The topsoil is the most nutrient-rich part of the soil, and so plants rely heavily on it for growth.
Therefore, losing topsoil is going to reduce your plant growth. Erosion can also lead to water quality
issues. Not only does the topsoil muddy up our lakes and rivers, but also the nutrients that the topsoil is
carrying can create algal blooms leading to decreased aquatic life. That is bad news for our lakes and the
fish that inhabit them. Erosion can also create a hardpan that will repel water and increases surface
So let’s talk about what you can do to reduce erosion. Firstly, construction makes soil very susceptible to
erosion. Removing all the vegetation from the top of the soil leaves it open to the rainfall. Whenever
possible in construction, surround the project site with hay bales and silt fences, preserve the already
existing vegetation, and keep any piles of loose vegetation or gravel covered.
Keep stream banks covered with vegetation and trees. Those plant roots will solidify that stream bank so
that the natural erosion process will be slowed down. It will keep the stream from widening. In gardens
and around the home use mulch or compost when possible to protect bare soil. This will improve water
infiltration into the soil and reduce runoff.
Minimizing impermeable surfaces such as the driveway or walkway on your property will also reduce
erosion. Obviously, you will need some impermeable surfaces at your property, such as a roof for your
house. For cases like that, it’s important to design pathways for the water from those impermeable
surfaces to travel so that they can be deposited in a rain garden or pond. Rain gardens collect water
to allow the water to infiltrate back into the soil instead of having it run downhill. Usually, they have plants
that are adapted to living in damp soils.
If you have any questions about erosion or what you can do to prevent erosion at your property, please
contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected].