mulch or compost - Knowledgebase Question

Question by jeanmcv
February 7, 2009
I have about 90 roses and I want to know what I should put on them to hold the moisture in and that will brake down over time.And what kind of mulch or compost? Thank you,

Answer from NGA
February 7, 2009


Organic mulch material is anything that will decompose over time and release nutrients into the soil. Compost makes a fine mulch, but there are others:

Grass Clippings: The best use for grass clippings is to leave them on the lawn. They decompose rapidly, adding nutrients back into the soil. If you choose to use grass clippings for mulch, it is best to build up the mulch layer gradually using dry grass, not fresh clippings, to prevent the formation of a solid mat that can prevent water moving through it. A two-inch layer of grass clippings provides weed control if it is not full of weed seeds. Be careful not to use clippings from lawns that have been treated with herbicides.

Straw: Straw decomposes rapidly, so you will have to replenish it to keep the weeds down. Straw is not very ornamental and is best for a vegetable garden or over newly sown lawns. Straw will improve the soil as it decays.

Leaves: A 2- to 3-inch layer of leaves provides good weed control. It is best to shred the leaves coarsely, using a shredder or your lawn mower. Whole leaves have a tendency to blow away, while finely shredded leaves do not allow water to penetrate. Oak and beech leaves help to acidify the soil for acid-loving plants. Leaves are usually easy to get, attractive as a mulch, and they will improve the soil once they decompose. After the leaves decompose, dig them into the soil and add a new layer of mulch on top.

Pine Bark: A 2- to 3-inch layer of pine bark is good for weed control. Pine bark makes an attractive, usually dark-colored mulch. It can be purchased in various particle sizes, from shredded to large-sized particles, called nuggets. Large pine bark nuggets float in water and may not stay in place during a heavy rain.

Pine Needles: A 2-inch layer of pine needles makes an excellent mulch for acid-loving trees and shrubs. Pine needles tend to interlock and stay in place better than most mulches, especially on a slope. This mulch is very attractive and allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate easily to the soil surface.

Shredded Hardwood Mulch:This mulch is good at suppressing weeds. It does not wash away easily. It decomposes relatively slowly, and it is very attractive.

Wood Chips: This material contains bark and pieces of wood of various sizes and makes an attractive mulch. A 2- to 3-inch layer of wood chips provides good weed control. Small wood chips decompose very rapidly using nitrogen from the soil, which needs to be replaced by nitrogen fertilizer. Wood chips may attract termites and other insects.

Hope this information is helpful!

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