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New mulches improve look of flower beds
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Last night I was planting some new Dreamland zinnias for late summer and fall, and finished the job with the new red-dyed mulch. Even though the zinnias weren't blooming, the contrast of the red mulch and the green leaves sure looked impressive.
In addition to the red-dyed mulch, you may want to try the black-dyed. This one has been popular in Corinth, Tupelo and Southaven, but it is just now catching on here. Just imagine bright green against a background of black. It is stunning.
As much as I like these dyed mulches, I have to admit the contrast they provide is nothing compared to the new tumbled glass mulch that was an instant hit at the garden and patio show in Jackson. You are starting to see this dazzling mulch everywhere, North Park Mall included.
This mulch comes in various colors -- green, blue, white, a hot new red and, I am told, even a glow-in-the-dark. While the North Park Mall has a desert theme, the glass mulch will fit any style that would otherwise use regular wood or pine straw mulch.
Because the glass is tumbled, you don't have to worry about getting cut. Several homeowners also are incorporating Christmas lights in the mulch.
Regardless of whether we choose one of the new mulches or the old standards, mulching is one of the most important things we can do for our shrubs, trees and flowerbeds.
Buying mulch or landscape soil mix can be a challenge when you don't know how much you need. People often try to look like they know what they are doing even when they don't.
Even if you are mathematically challenged, here is an easy formula to figure how much mulch or landscape soil mix you will need for your bed. First, it is critical to know there are 27 cubic feet in a cubic yard. One cubic yard will cover a 324-square-foot area with 1 inch of soil or mulch.
Figure out the square footage of your bed -- that's width times length for square- or rectangular-shaped beds. For triangular-shaped beds, the formula is base times height, divided by two.
Circular beds are popular in the South. To find out the square footage, go to the middle of the circle and measure to the outside. This is your radius. Multiply this number by itself, then multiply by 3.14.
For example, if the distance was six, multiply by six to get 36. Then multiply 36 by 3.14 (which is pi -- remember pi?). This will determine your area in square feet. Won't you impress your friends when you tell them you used pi to figure out how much mulch to buy?
Multiply your square footage times your depth of inches and divide by 324 square feet, which is one cubic yard, one inch deep. This will tell you how many cubic yards you will need.
If you have 100 square feet and want to add three inches to the depth, multiply 100 by three, and then divide by 324 to convert to cubic yards. This equals .92 cubic yards that you need, so you can buy nine of the 3-cubic-feet bags. Because 27 cubic feet equals one cubic yard, you will have just a little bit left over.
Mulch prevents moisture loss, and in August, those newly planted trees and shrubs need all the moisture they can get to keep the soil from compacting. Compacted soil prevents moisture from reaching those roots and stifles the available oxygen. Mulch keeps the soil cool in the summer and actually stabilizes it in the winter.
One often overlooked benefit is that mulch helps deter weeds. Weeds that practically need a stick of dynamite to be removed in tight soil can usually be plucked easily in a well-mulched bed.
Pay attention to which landscapes catch your eye and which ones look most professional. Landscapes with an application of fresh mulch usually will be the ones that receive those appreciative stares. The new mulches are even more impressive.