Spring Mulch in SW Florida: Which Choice Should You Settle For?

Spring has sprung and along with her spring rains, spring annuals, and especially the need to apply spring mulch. Spring’s mulch layer has a ton of good things going for it. It controls weeds. Reduces soil erosion. Retains moisture. Adds textural beauty to your landscape. Aerates soil through decomposition and earthworm wriggling. And adds nutrients.

There’s no disputing that mulch offers you a multitude of mighty big benefits.

Spring mulchBut let’s move on to a question ArtisTree Landscape often receives: Which mulch settles the fastest and requires quicker replacement?  Since settling (or subsidence) is the packing down and/or thinning of mulch over time, some homeowners think their mulch is losing its original benefits. We hear it all the time: “What happened to my mulch? It’s disappeared!” Well, nothing lasts forever, especially an organic compound like mulch, so we encourage you to relax and read on.

As many as six studies* have compared the settling rates of common Florida landscape mulches.  To no one’s surprise, pine-straw mulch thins and decomposes the quickest — nearly by half during the first year and completely by year two. So just because the industry recommends applying three-and-a-half inches of pine straw in the spring, you should still expect it to deplete, and in some cases, require total replacement within the first year to maintain its benefits.

So what other options can you consider that were included in these studies? Melaleuca mulch (papery bark processed from the Melaleuca tree) topped the list with little settling. In the middle of the pack, cypress and pine bark mulches were rated good choices to make it through to fall mulch applications while maintaining a depth that continued to give benefits.

Bottom line: Any application of mulch will certainly add to the aesthetically pleasing look of your community’s landscape; however, its greater impact are the huge benefits it offers to your plants, soil and the roots it protects from the whims of Mother Nature.

If your community is approaching spring mulch time, check with your landscape maintenance provider to determine the best mulch choice for your aesthetic and budgetary needs. Or, if your homeowner association needs to hire a landscape maintenance company, call ArtisTree Landscape at 941.488.8897.  Ask for Mike Casper. He’ll visit your community, take detailed measurements and give your HOA a competitive, full-service maintenance proposal. And by the way, from all of us at ArtisTree — thank you very mulch for your visit today.

*University of Florida IFAS Extension

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