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Ten Commandments of Mulch

Question. I really enjoy your show and wanted to know if you could suggest a brand of mulch that's naturally black in color. The mulch I've purchased in the past starts out black,but turns brown.  Thanks,
            ---Kimberly in Wilmington, Delaware.
Following your advice, I called a nursery about getting leaf compost to use instead of mulch. They couldn't understand why we wouldn't want to use mulch. They said compost would burn the trees because it was too acidic. They also said if it's used in the right amount and isn't moist, wood mulch works perfectly and has never caused a problem. Isthis true? I would like to use compost, but I'm discouraged by what the nursery is saying.
             ---Lisa In Merchant ville, NJ

Dear Mike: I'm seeing a lot of shredded, dyed rubber mulch made from used car tires in home stores. My brother in Hollywood, FL, has started using it, but I don't even like calling it 'mulch'. I only use compost on my garden beds, but my brother likes the quick fix and I'm worried that the rubber mulch will break down and release byproducts that could contaminate the shallow water tables in places like Florida.         
            ---Steve in Morris ville, PA

I am looking for the best way to remove shotgun fungus spores from mysiding. I read the articles from Ohio State University, but didn't see any mention of removal strategies.  Thank you!
            ---Barbara in Northern Michigan

Answer. Ah yes, 'tis the season of Mulching Mistakes. Tell you what—I'll answer all those questions andmany more, and sum up everything you need to know about this topic in aseries of tips and treatises we will call:

The Ten Commandments of Mulch

1.    The word "mulch" does not mean wood chips orshredded bark. "Mulch" isanything that covers the soil to retain moisture and prevent weeds.Nurseries would LIKE you to think that wood = mulch because they're often paid to take wood chips and shredded bark from tree cutters trying to avoid high landfill costs. If they can then sell it to you as mulch, they get paid twice.

2.    There is no better mulch than compost .No, compost is not acidic and it doesn't harm plants (it's plant FOOD!). But nurseries have to actually buy compost, so some might tella little…eh, 'fib' to achieve that higher profit. Did I just say,"fib"? I'm sorry—that's not fair. I meant to say: "Liar, liar; pants on fire". I apologize for the error. Anyway, in a groundbreaking study from Iowa and Ohio State Universities two inches of compost prevented weeds just a swell as two inches of ground wood mulch. And the compost provided all the food it's plants needed for the season, while the wood mulch actually increased the plants' need for food (see #9, below). You gonna believe some guy what wants to sell you wood to make a bigger profit?Or the published results of University researchers?  


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