Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Home and Garden

Use mulch to keep weeds in control

Compost or mulch? People often confuse the two, although each fulfills a different function in gardening.

Which one you want depends on your needs.

"Compost is used to feed crops; mulch is used to suppress weeds," said Daniel McGrath, a horticulturist with Oregon State University Extension. "Compost is decomposed organic matter that is generally higher in nutrients and relatively low in carbon compared to mulch. Mulch is raw, un-decomposed organic matter."

Unlike compost, mulch is generally not mixed into the soil, he noted, but is applied 2 to 4 inches deep on top of the soil around a tree or shrub.

Mulch has fewer nutrients and is not meant to replace fertilizer, which should be added as a supplement. Mulching does, however, maintain soil moisture, prevent most weed seeds from germinating and keep soil temperatures constant around plants, said Martha Smith, an extension horticulturist with the University of Illinois.

Which kind of mulch you choose depends on what you're growing and where.

Some mulch, especially crushed rock and commercially made, color-enhanced mixtures, can beautify pathways, driveways and play areas. Good mulch is easy to apply and remove; is free of noxious weeds, insects and disease; and adds organic materials to the soil as it breaks down.

"There are different by-products used across the U.S. based on local supply," Smith said. That includes pine needles in the South, hazelnut shells in the Northwest and buckwheat hulls in the Southeast.

Some mulch choices

Shredded bark, wood chips and shavings: Easy to spread and long-lasting, but can rob the soil of nitrogen and make landscape plants turn yellow. Look for "arborist chips" or ground-up tree branches that can make a good mulch and often are available for the asking from tree trimmers.

Gravel and stones: Stone doesn't have to be replaced like organic mulches, but it is expensive and will work into the ground. Stone is great for problem areas, though, like deep shade or in channels cut for stormwater runoff.

Black plastic and straw: Both are commonly used in vegetable gardens and orchards. Plastics, however, prevent water from entering the soil, while straw contains grain seeds that can germinate.

Leaves: Shredded leaves provide good insulation and weed control, although they won't allow much water to penetrate. Work them into the soil after they decompose.

Others include newspapers (unattractive unless shredded), peat moss (inexpensive but acidic), shredded rubber (doesn't decompose but may smell) and landscape cloth (allows water to infiltrate but must be tacked down).

Materials to avoid

Grass clippings, especially any containing herbicides. Clippings are better left on lawns where they break down quickly and return some nutrients to the soil.

Treated wood chips, charcoal and ash — especially barbecue briquettes and coal ash — may include compounds and chemicals harmful to pets and plants.

Sawdust packs tightly and is unsightly.

Comments
Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Golden Globe-nominated movies and when to see them in Tampa Bay

Guillermo Del Toro’s romantic creature feature The Shape of Water soaked up seven Golden Globes nominations Monday, kicking off another marathon awards season. The Shape of Water is nominated for best dramatic motion picture alongside Christop...
Published: 12/11/17
Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

Review: Amazon wants a key to your house. I did it. I regretted it.

I gave Amazon.com a key to go into my house and drop off packages when I’m not around. After two weeks, it turns out letting strangers in has been the least-troubling part of the experience.Once Amazon owned my door, I was the one locked into an all-...
Published: 12/08/17
Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Five offbeat movie choices to get you away from the multiplex this week

Hollywood is backloading December, waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to bring moviegoers back to multiplexes. After no major releases last week, only James Franco’s The Disaster Artist is making any new impression at box offices this weekend. (Cli...
Published: 12/06/17
Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Want the perfect Christmas tree? We asked an expert for help

Lights, ribbons, tinsel, flowers — how do you get that perfect look? We asked designer Ken Neddo of Classic Florals in St. Petersburg to help with this yearly decorating event.   * What do you see as the general trends in Christmas tree deco...
Published: 12/05/17
Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Timely Tendings: As holidays approach, find the right plants; keep an eye on edibles in the garden

Get holiday plants: trees, poinsettias and cactiLiving Christmas trees are a fun, lasting way to celebrate the holiday season that can then be planted to provide a lifetime of enjoyment. Unfortunately a commonly sold plant for this is the Norfolk Isl...
Published: 12/01/17
Updated: 12/05/17
5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

5 first-time homebuyer mistakes to avoid

Thinking about buying your first home? Before you can unlock the door to homeownership, you have to take some important first steps. From finding the perfect location to financing your purchase, shopping for your first home has challenges that go bey...
Published: 11/30/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

Hometown Hernando for Dec. 8

We want your news!Hometown Hernando is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well done. Y...
Published: 11/29/17
Updated: 12/07/17
That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

That time Shia LaBeouf tried to join a Tampa Bay Undeground Film Festival ...

For a few bewildering days, R. Presley Stephens thought his Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival would welcome a notorious celebrity.The fourth annual shoestring cinema showcase runs Thursday through Sunday at Britton 8 Theater, 3938 S Dale Mabry High...
Published: 11/29/17
Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

Plan and budget for a good return on your garden investment

The first of the 2018 seed catalogs will be arriving soon in the mail, signaling the start of another growing season. Savvy vegetable gardeners pore over the pages while choosing plants and drafting budgets. Planning ahead provides healthier returns ...
Published: 11/28/17
Updated: 12/05/17
Diggin’ Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

Diggin’ Florida Dirt: Gardeners share suggestions for holiday gifts

If I had to choose just one garden tool to be shipwrecked with on an uninhabited island, it would be my Felco 2 pruners. They clip anything up to about a half-inch diameter — even thicker when I push it, which I do.Even my daughter marveled when I qu...
Published: 11/27/17
Updated: 11/29/17