pine straw and mulch
October 18, 2005 9:10 AM   Subscribe

synthetic vs. natural pine straw/mulch?

i am new to home maintnence and need the lowdown on these options--pro/cons across the board from cost, to ease of installation, to asthetics.
posted by ransom to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
Best answer: The best mulch to use would depend a lot on why you are using it.

If you are simply suppressing weeds and conserving water around a tree, for example, the recycled mulch will do the job. It can be a fairly inexpensive route and while it is obviously fake up close, most people won't notice. Another plus is the permanance; natural mulch must be reapplied twice a year.

Having said that, I prefer to go natural in my garden. I only use organic fertilizer and I only use triple-shredded hardwood mulch.

One reason to use the natural stuff is that it helps make the soil more loamy. That means if you have heavy clay it will become lighter which makes it easier to weed, easier to grow plants, and it will drain better. If you have sandy soil it will become denser and hold on to nutrients and water better.

Another reason to use the natural stuff is that over time the plastic does breakdown, releasing who knows what into the air and soil of your garden. I would definitely not use plastic in my food garden.

The only draw back to using a natural mulch such as the triple-shredded hardwood is that when it breaks down in the soil, it actually uses up nutrients. So you do need to add fertilizer.

As far as costs go, try not to buy the mulch in those little bags at the garden center-- it is outrageously expensive. My town has a city recycling center that sells both compost and mulch. The mulch is $12.00 a truckload but is made mostly from scrap lumber, and I don't know what sort of chemicals the lumber has been treated with. I opt to buy triple-shredded hardwood which I can get locally for $32.00 a small truckload if I pick it up myself or $100.00 for a large load if I have it delivered.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:09 AM on October 18, 2005

I'm sorry I have no idea what synthetic mulch is.

Are they those compostable weed blankets? We don't call them 'mulch' in my part of the world. My very organic, biodynamic and trustworthy mail order nursery uses a version of them, and I imagine they would hav researched it thoroughly before use.

Secret Life of Gravy certainly covers the main points. Pinebark is very woody, which is fine for very low maintenance areas like under trees, but not for flower or vegetable areas. Here are some other potential issues with it, it can also be quite acidic. For vege gardens you need to use something that will break down more quickly. Pea straw is excellent, being a source of nitrogen.

Generally, you do get what you pay for.
posted by wilful at 4:53 PM on October 18, 2005

Remember that if you add pine wood to your soil you will alter the pH and make it more acidic too.
posted by fshgrl at 10:42 PM on October 18, 2005

« Older Am I biased or random?   |   Where's the trivia? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.