Seashells in the Garden

shell_bedThe use of seashells in landscaping has proven to be a popular choice with many homeowners in Florida. This ground cover is durable as well as beautiful, and has many benefits to the garden. First, it is a good source of calcium (which some plants need anyway). In situations where the soil pH leans to the acidic side, calcium can help bring it back up. Beaches and palm trees are things many people think of when the thought of Florida enters their mind. Sea shells fit in this theme well, as they can be found near our beaches.

The use of shells in a landscape design can be done many ways. I’ve seen some where the shell is the main ground cover. By the way, that will work… that is if you do enough research to find plants that will live comfortably in that environment. It is important to always remember that plants are alive and your consideration to this will determine how long they will survive after the initial install is complete.

I prefer to use this ground cover in focal beds within a planting area. Florida field stone is a great border, as it has shells imbedded into the limestone itself! This really brings out the shell as a point of focus. Planting palms and things of the sort inside these shell beds can give a really cool Florida theme.

field_stone_bed

In my Florida friendly landscape garden designs, I use this theme often because it really drives home the Florida look and feel. Seashells are also used in parking areas and driveways because of the durability of the shells over mulch or pine straw. Also, shells are cheaper than rock, so covering large areas with it would make more sense than using rock.

large_sea_shells

Shell comes in different sizes too, so if you want a coarser texture, use the large stuff… this has a very detailed look to it, as you can clearly see the individual pieces of shell. Then there is a medium grade, which is smaller than the large, but not quite as small as the crushed stuff. The crushed shell is most common, as it is available at most supply yards. This grade of shell is a good base material as it won’t wash away easily. This would make a good path (as long as you wear shoes when walking on it). Walking on crushed shells is like walking on broken glass (not very friendly on the bare feet). There is also small shell that is not crushed. This has a different texture and color.

Benefits of Mulch

 

 

 

The Benefits of Using Mulch

 

Mulch is a wonderfully useful material and a necessity in landscaping. It is most commonly used in plants beds and can also be used as a ground cover in place of a lawn. There are many different varieties and colors available. In Florida, cypress are protected and the use of this mulch is no longer available. All hardwood mulches are dyed to color, except Eucalyptus.

Using Mulch in Planting Beds Mulching is especially important in planted areas since Florida’s soil consists mostly of sand, which drains water and dries very quickly. The moisture it holds is vital to the health of the plants. Using mulch in planters also reduces the amount of water you need to provide to the plants, lowering maintenance and the cost of irrigation.

 

Using Mulch as a Ground Cover

Large areas of your yard can be overspread by mulch in place of a high-maintenance lawn. Reducing the square footage of grass areas will limit the use and expense of chemicals, fertilizers and irrigation. This will also allow more options of additional planted areas, depending on your personal preferences.

mulch in beds

Establishing a Base

 

A “base” is created by continually applying layers of mulch through-out the changing seasons. These layers will over-time erode into the soil creating a firmer, more nutrient soil. When initially installing your mulch, it is ideal to first apply a herbicide to inhibit weed growth. A 3 inch layer is recommended to begin establishing a base. Keep in mind that the material spreads out very ‘fluffy’. Very soon after, you will notice the layer looks ‘thinner’. This is a result of rain washing the smaller particles into the soil leaving the larger pieces on the surface to lock together. About a month after the initial placement, another layer should be applied mostly in the areas where wash-out or thinning is most noticeable. Eventually these layers will build up and lock together making it more difficult for weeds to grow through. This should be done until a 3 inch layer is established. Mulching in excess of 4 inches at any time can cause problems with plants.

Unfortunately, weeds are a fact of nature that we all must deal with. They really do grow everywhere! Frequent, routine maintenance is required to keep there growth to a minimum. That maintenance is most important at the beginning stages because of the vulnerability of breaches in the soil. Weed Block cloth is an option but is not recommended in areas with plants or where weeds tend to grow. Weeds will naturally grow where there is a breach in the cloth before open areas, which means your new plants will be most susceptible. Round-Up can be used to assist with maintenance but you must be very careful not to get any over-spray on your plants.

The Final Decision

 

If you choose to have mulch as a part of your landscape, keep the facts above in mind and prepare yourself for the expenses, whether it be financially or physically, of properly maintaining your yard to keep it looking fresh and as beautiful as the day it was installed.

 

 

 

 

Why Mulch My Yard?

There are many reasons to use mulch in landscaping. Some people I talk to say they don’t like mulch, or that termites live in it. These are things we as homeowners have to over come. The facts point towards an exact opposite to what most people know about wood mulch. First, mulching plant beds give your plants an environment to thrive. Mulch holds moisture at the surface, so plants can have a drink when they get thirsty. Next, a well established mulch bed can become a difficult place for weeds to poke their roots into and reach soil. Also, over time a well established bed of mulch can reduce your time in the yard working!

 

Mulch Application

Benifits of Mulching

Planting beds free of mulch are impossible to keep the weeds under control. Weeds typically will grow anywhere …even between concrete driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt! Mulch won’t stop the development of weeds in your yard, but will make it tougher for them and less work for you. The aesthetic value alone is worth consideration!

 

Termite Mud Tubes

Signs of Termites

Termites and other bugs live in the ground where there is little oxygen. Subterranean Termites create mud tubes to avoid contact with oxygen. Mulch not on their list of “favorite” things to eat (although they have been known to wonder into a mulch bed here and there). The best remedy for that is termite protection.

 

Applying Mulch

Applying Mulch

When grass comes out, and mulch is applied in its place, it will take time for layers to pack together. As these layers build, less mulch will be needed to add to keep the depth at a minimum of 3 inches. Water is what packs in the mulch, and also what will erode the layers down. Rain is the main source of that water and heavy rains can wash away thick areas into grass, sidewalks and rock beds…

Mulching a new landscape is a process, like everything else in life this too will require one to think of how to address the issues that are present in the best manner. Since each yard is a different environment, and each area of that yard may have its own unique problem, the first thing to do is see what is really happening, and address each problem area until all problems are solved. Then, apply a top dress layer at least once a year to maintain a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Mulching too deep will create other problems.

 

rocks within a mulch bed

The Use of Rocks

If you have rocks in your design, create pockets of mulch around your plants inside the rock bed. This will allow the plants to get some water before the mean rocks send all of the water back into the clouds. Rocks evaporate water by absorbing heat from the sun and will quickly dry the soil. This will lessen your water bill too. Having rocks inside a mulch bed is beneficial as rocks will reduce the areas needed to mulch and will save on maintenance costs as well as add to the overall look of your garden.