Saturday, August 2, 2008

To mulch, or not to mulch?

Landscaping, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. To some, the perfect landscape is very manicured, geometric, and symmetrical. To others, a natural, untamed environment is preferable. Some gardeners prefer to use an arsenal of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers along with a rigid trimming and pruning schedule to achieve their results. Organic gardeners prefer non-toxic tools and natural methods to achieve theirs.

A hotly debated topic seems to concern mulching. While mulching can control moisture-loss in the soil and deter weed growth, it also prevents soil-boring bees from creating nests. With bee populations in crisis, is it wise to limit their nesting opportunities?

Bright green bees, small black bees, striped and fuzzy bees. These busy little creatures are responsible for pollinating a large variety of fruits, flowers, and vegetables. They are an important and vital part of our ecosystem.

Once favored as THE mulch of choice, cypress mulch use is now being discouraged. Because cypress is grown primarily in wetlands areas, opponents of cypress mulch say cutting the trees contributes to the destruction of habitat and the erosion of wetlands, an important line of defense against hurricanes. Huge information campaigns by organizations across the Gulf Coast, like the Save Our Cypress Coalition are trying to inform the public of this destruction. Thanks to dedicated individuals like Houston's Moira Glace, who handed out brochures in the 100-degree Texas heat, their message is getting out.

Eco-friendly gardeners can also rejoice that they won't be losing anything by boycotting cypress mulch: It doesn't work as effectively as once believed. Scientists at the University of Florida have shown that there are equally effective sustainable alternatives that don't deplete our natural wetlands and don't deprive our gardens of the benefits of mulching.

Dan Favre, campaign manager of the nonprofit Gulf Restoration Network recommends that gardeners instead use pine straw, pine bark nuggets, eucalyptus mulch or melaleuca mulch. Melaleuca is an invasive species being removed from the Everglades. He adds that the simplest and most sustainable method is to create a mulch pile from leaves and lawn clippings. "It's free, and it does great things to the soil quality in your yard," he said.

The work of GRN has brought some results. After sending a delegation to New Orleans to speak with scientists and visit the wetlands, Wal-Mart announced in August 2007 that, effective earlier this year, it would stop selling cypress mulch harvested in Louisiana. Favre said his organization will continue to talk with Lowe's and Home Depot.

Gardeners: Do some homework. Find mulch from sustainable sources and create some bee-friendly areas in your landscape. Xeriscape whenever possible. Xeriscaping uses native plant and flower species that tend to be drought-tolerant and pest-resistent. Native flower species are actually preferred by bees over exotic, non-native species.
Until next time...become the change you imagine.

1 comment:

Revon said...

Adding violet colored mulches really attracts the bee. But be cautious. too much color area confuse them. just be spotty.

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