The Q&A Archives: Mulch Material

Question: The ground around my perennials looks bad. I want to cover the ground with straw. I was told that this may hurt my plants(to acidic or something). I have plenty of straw and didn't want to have to buy something if I could avoid it. What is your opinion?

Answer: Mulching bare ground is always a good idea. Organic mulch helps keep weed seeds from germinating and helps retain moisture in the summertime. Mulch also helps protect the soil from heaving and thawing during the winter. Almost any organic matter can be used for mulch. Straw is an excellent choice and is fairly neutral, not acidic. Pine needles are acidic, as is peat moss, so if your soil is on the acid side (low pH), then avoid those materials. Use straw or compost instead. If your soil is alkaline and you want to acidify it, by all means use mulch material that's slightly acidic. It pays to stockpile your leaves in the fall so you can pile them up on your garden beds over the winter. Why not start a compost pile using some of your straw as a base and adding grass clippings, plant debris and leaves through the season? That way you'll have plenty of inexpensive mulching material year around.

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