Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Will Work for Mulch
Hoe & Shovel is blessed to have a surplus of oak trees. The photo above is a look to the north from the driveway. The trees are pretty much mirrored on the south side of the drive and then meet together to canopy over the pavement. In the back garden there are many more.
Trees were on the 'must-have list' for me when we were house shopping and purchased this house 24 years ago. So often in this part of Florida contractors are known for buying up abandoned or non-producing orange groves and then leveling the land to create massive stretches of housing complexes. We were looking for something with a more "old Florida" feel and a smaller more secluded neighborhood than the typical sprawl of homes with cookie cutter style. Gardening was only a dream for me way back then. I honestly had no idea the first thing about it but I was determined to take on this "big yard" at the time.
The trees provide my garden with numerous advantages. Probably the most important being the shade from the often brutal temps in the summer. The layout of the tree cover supplies an almost perfect balance of sun and shade for all the foliage I've used in my underplantings.
This time of year when the new spring growth in the oaks is bursting forth it is also releasing the spent leaves. So they are dropping to the ground in record numbers as I can only imagine they must do in the fall up north. In Florida we don't really lose our leaves in the fall- it isn't cold enough. I know--- another thing the northern gardeners must think is all backwards. But... it is all we know down here in the tropics. Leaves falling like mad in the spring.
This is the way my driveway looks (above) every 24 hours for the past three weeks. Now I'm not complaining, believe me. I aggressively collect them from the driveway and street side gladly. My handy Echo gas-blower is my friend along with a rake and my trusty wheelbarrow. The natural showering of organic material provides every one of my planted beds with the mulch needed to protect them all summer long.
Willingly, I cart wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of this precious commodity around to every bed in my garden and gently hand distribute under all my plantings. It has been years since I've spent money on mulch of any kind.
Typically I most often pile the grass clippings on top of the compost pile and wait for them to breakdown. My compost situation is a whole other story I could cover in another post. I've never really done much of my gardening by the book which goes for my compost area as well. Would I love to have a compost bin all neat and nice? It is on the wish list but this has worked for me all these years. So, this is the "pile" located on the "back 40" where no one else can see it but me. I deplete this pile occasionally as well to work the "black gold" into my beds.
Oak leaves break down beautifully when used as mulch. It's natural and it's acidic which is what most of the tropicals require for best growing conditions. The layers and layers my soil has received over the years has provided me with a remarkably rich and loamy environment for all my beds... not a typical environment found in this part of Florida. It's worth all the work and effort it takes during this already busy gardening season.
In addition, there are so many other reasons to keep either existing trees or to add trees to your garden. Not only do they help moderate weather extremes such as hot sun or strong winds but trees and shrubs offer habitat for wildlife and privacy for humans by screening adjacent property. They also increase soil porosity, allowing water to infiltrate rather than run off. Vegetation helps protect water quality by filtering out nutrients and pesticides that could otherwise reach a lake or stream and cause algal blooms or excessive plant growth.
What is your mulch of preference? I'm especially curious about gardeners north of Florida. What kind so you use and where do you get it? I go through this routine in the spring and then by the time winter rolls around I've dug and planted and moved plants around so much that I find I need some shoring up of the mulch. That's when I deplete my compost pile which gets quite large at times. Don't forget, we mow the lawn all year long.