need long-lasting and pretty mulch for container garden

ydfz(deep south texas 9)October 14, 2013

hello friends,

gearing up for the winter garden here and i need your help!!! i have an extensive container garden with all kinds of edibles. i live in south texas where the beating sun tends to fade organic mulches in a couple of months. i have even tried pecan shells; these lasted about three months this summer before they were totally white. i hate replacing the mulch so often and my pocketbook isn't a fan either. i don't use a real thick layer, just enough to keep the soil surface from drying into a brick (prolly 1/2" to 1").

do you have any ideas for a safe, long-lasting, AESTHETICALLY PLEASING, and not-too-heat-retentive mulch that i can use? what about pebbles? would they heat the soil too much? i was also looking at doing a thin layer of pretty red rubber mulch, but everybody has me scared about toxicity risk...(i don't see what's the big deal when i see people planting stuff in rubber tires all the time, but okay)

thanks lovelies

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I can't imagine using a non organic mulch on containers. Here I use fir bark mostly about 3/8 to 1/2 inch, good for at least a year. Al

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 9:49AM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

"Aesthetically Pleasing" is so subjective. I think most naturally colored bark mulch looks ok. Conversely, I think that rubber stuff looks awful.

Everything but rock fades in the hot summer sun. Go with bark, and think what's best for your plants.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 7:26PM
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ydfz(deep south texas 9)

thanks for your advice guys!!! i just wonder if bark mulch is worth the expense when it doesn't last long at all and does little to nothing to enrich my potting mix during that time...

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 12:14PM
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Oxboy555(Las Vegas)

You don't want it to enrich your potting mix. Decomposing bark steals nutrients (albeit slowly) that your plant needs. That is why you keep the bark layer on top as a mulch and don't let it get down in the mix. And that's where using med-lg size bark chunks comes in. They stay on top and are easy to remove/replace.

Bark might fade in color but large bark chunks can take 10-20 yrs to fully biodegrade. Plus, they don't get in the way (unless you pile it on more than a couple of inches) of the natural gas/fluid exchanges that need to happen between air and soil.

I live in the scrub desert like you but with even less humidity. I have freezing winters and burning summers. Any pot staying outside (and not tucked into a quiet shady corner) exposed to those elements gets some bark mulch.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 1:11PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I use pine straw myself. It takes a long time to decompose, it doesn't really steal nitrogen, as it breaks down so slowly. You can use thin layers, yet still will retain water well. It looks OK, not great. I really don't care about that though.
Plus for me it's free. My In Laws have a few hundred pine trees on their property. I use it to cover my strawberries in the winter, and in the flower bed too. Pine bark is the slowest to break down. I use oak and maple at my cottage to produce compost, as my wood pile looks like dirt is all over it from the bark breaking down. A rich black humus is produced. In this case I don't worry about nitrogen theft as the soil is super rich up there, plenty for everybody.
From what I understand it's wood in the soil, not on top that causes the leaching,

This post was edited by Drew51 on Thu, Oct 17, 13 at 7:56

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 12:00AM
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