Mulch is a very important tool in the garden and landscape that:
ohelps prevent loss of topsoil from wind and water erosion
oreduces water usage by maintaining soil moisture
oreduces rainwater runoff
oreduces soil compaction
olessens soil temperature fluctuations
oimproves soil tilth
omakes the landscape more attractive
oreduces weed growth
oinsulates soil to keep plants cooler in summer and warmer in winter
oimproves soil aeration, structure, and drainage over time
oimproves soil fertility
oinhibits certain plant diseases
oreduces damage from trimmers and lawn mowers
All of these qualities not only improve the health of your garden and landscape, but subsequently improve its overall beauty as well.
There are many types of mulches to choose from. One type, pine straw (sometimes referred to as pine needles), outperforms other mulches in many ways. But before I discuss that, let me explain what pine straw is.
Pine straw comes from several different species of pine trees, and these trees drop their leaves (needles or straw) naturally throughout the year. Once the straw drops to the ground, it is baled, without ever having to cut down a single tree. Since it is produced naturally and sustainably, I sometimes refer to it as the "guilt-free" mulch.
Each species' straw will have its own unique characteristics, such as needle length, wax content, and needle flexibility to name a few. The Loblolly species of pine straw for instance, with a needle length ranging from about six to nine inches, makes it easy to apply and shape, and the needle size is the optimum for allowing the soil to breathe well while allowing excellent water infiltration.
Pine straw bales are usually available in either a round or square shape, and of varying weights and sizes. They are easy to carry and easy to store. In size and appearance, they are very similar to small hay bales.
Besides it being produced naturally and sustainably, there are numerous garden and landscape health and beauty advantages to using pine straw mulch. pine straw. Some of the ways pine straw outperforms other mulches are:
oLongevity - it doesn't float and wash away and breaks down more slowly, so it doesn't need to be reapplied as frequently as other mulches
oLightweight - it is easier to handle and lighter per cubic foot than other mulches: one large bale can cover as much area as 30 cubic feet of most mulches!
oCost - the cost per square foot is competitive with other mulches
oSoil health - it breathes better, doesn't compact, and allows for better water infiltration
oSimple - it is easy to apply: just unroll the bales and scatter by hand
oPest free - it doesn't attract termites
oPlant health - it adds organic material and nutrients to soil and reduces weeds
oVisually appealing - the uniform color and fine texture of pine straw brings out the color, contrast, and texture of your landscape
oErosion control - you can use it where grass won't grow to hold soil
oGreat for bird nests - used frequently for bird nests and bird houses
Mulching is undeniably the single best thing you can do for your garden and landscape. Using pine straw as your mulch will not only save you time and money, but can give you a garden that is the envy of your neighborhood!
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