MULCH ADO ABOUT LANDSCAPING

Cypress Mulch

Mulch provides many benefits for a garden. First, mulch retains moisture in the soil and reduces the need for irrigation. In fact, mulch can decrease water use by an average of 25 percent. Mulch also inhibits the growth of weeds, prevents soil erosion, regulates soil temperature and enhances the natural aesthetics of a garden.

While mulch is necessary for most landscapes, there are many varieties of mulch from which to choose, and the choice can be daunting – especially for the novice gardener. Consider certain aspects of mulch to choose the right addition for your lawn and garden.

CONTENT

There are two basic types of mulch: inorganic and organic. Inorganic mulch such as stone and brick will conserve water and shade the soil. Inorganic mulch is resilient in diverse climates, and it does not disintegrate. However, inorganic mulch will not improve the condition of the soil. Organic mulch such as bark, wood and pine straw will also conserve water and shade the soil. In addition, it will improve the condition of the soil by increasing the fertility of sandy soils, improving the drainage of clay soils and adding valuable nutrients. But, organic mulch will eventually disintegrate and must be replaced.

pH

The ability of the pH of mulch to alter the pH of soil is a subject of debate. Clay soils are generally resistant to change, so the pH level of the mulch may have minimal or no impact on the pH level of the soil. However, the sandy, acidic soils that are prevalent in the Fort Bragg region are more vulnerable to the pH levels of mulch. Pine straw and pine bark are solid choices for gardens with plants that prefer acidic environments such as azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and gardenias.

COLOR

Mulch is available in a variety of colors. For instance, pine bark is naturally dark while cypress mulch is naturally pale. The color of mulch is not only an aesthetic consideration, though. The hue can also have an impact on the ambient temperature of a garden bed. On a summer day, dark mulch can reach a temperature of 140 to 150 degrees, so dark mulch should be used in beds only where plants are heat-tolerant. For plants that are sensitive to heat, pale mulch is preferable.

SIZE AND WEIGHT

Aesthetically, the size of the particles of the mulch should be proportionate to the size of the plants in the garden bed. Dense mulches are best for garden beds that are located on slopes, in wet climates or in windy climates. Light mulches can wash away on slopes and tend to float during rain or wind events. Particle size and weight will affect the spread density, too. Shredded hardwood mulch with fine, compactable particles should be applied two to three inches deep. Coarse bark nuggets can be applied three to five inches deep, and loose straw can be applied up to six inches deep.

AROMA

Fresh, viable mulch should have a clean aroma that is similar to the fragrance of cut wood or soil. Avoid any mulch that carries an odor of vinegar, ammonia or sulfur, which indicates that the mulch is sour. Sour mulch can damage or destroy plants.

ORIGIN

Research the origins of mulch. Avoid mulch that contains treated, preserved, painted or stained wood – especially if you are mulching around edible plants. Such wood can contain harmful chemicals that could leach into the soil and into plants.

OTHER MULCHING TIPS …

  • Research the mulching needs of your plants and mulch them according to their specific preferences.
  • Choose mulch that has been certified by The Mulch and Soil Council. The certification program provides retailers and consumers with information about quality standards and truth-in-labeling practices for commercially-produced soils and mulches.
  • Grass clippings and shredded leaves are common mulches but should be used with care due to the probable presence of weeds in the mulch. Grass clippings and shredded leaves also decay rapidly.
  • Excessive mulching can suffocate plants. The less porous and more compactable the mulch is, the thinner it should be spread. Apply mulch eight inches from the bases of plants.
  • Avoid the use of plastics in garden beds. While plastics can retain moisture and inhibit weeds, some plastics can contain harmful chemicals. Furthermore, plastics can cause excessive heating of the soil, which can be detrimental to plants.
  • Mulch only when seedlings and perennials are up and green. Hasty mulching can stall the growth of plants.
  • Do not work bark or wood mulch into the soil at the end of the growing season. Bark or wood mulch can compete for nutrients and cause a nitrogen deficiency in the soil.
  • Generally, one cubic yard of mulch will cover a 100 square foot area to a depth of up to three inches.

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Mulch and Soil Council

Better Homes and Gardens Mulch Guide

How to Choose Mulch for Your Landscape from DIY Network

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Going Green at the Office

Staff Report, Fort Bragg Environmental Management

(Scroll to the end of the post for a printable poster!)

Many Americans spend much of their days in an office, and for the 144 million members of the work force, the office can be a “home away from home.” By incorporating sustainable practices into the operations of the office, one can save natural resources, conserve fiscal resources and turn a “home away from home” into a healthy, efficient environment.

Recycled Content Post-It

Here are some easy ways to “go green” at the office …

ENERGY CONSERVATION
– Use task lighting and natural lighting when possible.
– Use the power saver feature on electronics such as copiers and printers.
– Set office thermostats in accordance with Army regulations: 68 degrees (+/- 2 degrees) in the heating season and 78 degrees (+/- 2 degrees) in the cooling season.
– Power down computers and other electronics at the end of the duty day.
– Unplug electronics and appliances when the office is to be unoccupied for a long period of time, such as a deployment or holiday.

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION
– Arrange a carpool with colleagues.
– If possible, consider cycling or walking to the office.
– Consider the Fort Bragg Sustainable Shuttle when traveling on post.

WASTE REDUCTION
– Circulate office notices electronically.
– Distribute, review and store files electronically when possible.
– Request publications such as newsletters and magazines to be delivered electronically.
– Use both sides of the paper when printing and copying.
– Reuse office supplies as much as possible.
– Replace disposable items with reuseable items.
– Always recycle paper and other recyclables!

RESPONSIBLE PURCHASING
– Complete a thorough inventory of office supplies prior to ordering to avoid waste.
– Purchase paper and other products with a minumum of 30 percent recycled content.
– Purchase non-toxic and less-toxic versions of materials such as cleaners and inks.
– Purchase energy efficient and water efficient products.

INNOVATION
Consider innovative ways to be sustainable and resource-conscious at the office. Does your office present any unique opportunities to “go green?” Share your ideas on Facebook.

WANT TO POST THESE IDEAS IN YOUR OFFICE? SELECT THE IMAGE FOR A PRINTABLE POSTER!

Green Office Week Poster

Water You Going To Do To Conserve?

Article by Environmental Management, Directorate of Public Works, Fort Bragg

Imagine your day’s routine. Did you shower? Shave? Brush your teeth? Prepare a meal? Consume electricity? Perhaps, you washed your vehicle, enjoyed a cool dip in a swimming pool or savored a refreshing glass of iced tea on this hot, summer day.

If you engaged in any of these activities, you either directly or indirectly used nature’s most precious resource: water.

rowing alone at sunset

Water is essential for life. We use water to hydrate, to prepare our meals and to maintain our bodies. Water is the basis for many of the industrial and agricultural processes that produce our food, products and services. Water is an integral source of energy and a necessary element of power generation. Water is vital for transportation and recreation.

Just as water is essential for life, water is essential for the military mission as well. Every day, the Fort Bragg community consumes an average of four million gallons of water for human consumption, construction, field applications, military operations and quality of life activities.

But, water is a finite resource. Only one percent of the Earth’s water is available for human use. Of the remaining water on Earth, two percent is frozen in the forms of glaciers and ice caps, and 97 percent is salt water. All of the water that we will ever have is on Earth now. We cannot manufacture water in a factory. And, our water supplies are threatened due to pollution, climate change and increased demand throughout the world.

The use of water carries fiscal implications as well. If you receive a water bill at your home, you know that water is not a free resource. The cost for water for Fort Bragg is an average of $2.4 million annually.

Furthermore, the treatment of water to consumption standards is an energy intensive and therefore cost intensive process. And, the infrastructure used to provide our municipal water requires maintenance. Thus, it requires fiscal, human and natural resources.

How can you save our water supplies and our money? Conserve as much as possible!

– Shorten each shower by two minutes to save up to 150 gallons of water every month.

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth to save up to 25 gallons of water every month.

Turn off the water while you shave to save up to 300 gallons of water every month.

Where possible, install water efficient devices such as low flow shower heads, faucets and toilets. On average, a water efficient shower head can save 12,000 gallons of water every year while a water efficient toilet can save 24,000 gallons of water every year.

Wash only full loads of dishes and laundry. If you must wash less than a full load of laundry, adjust the water level in the machine to correspond to the amount of laundry.

When purchasing appliances, choose water efficient models.

– Irrigate your lawn and garden only when necessary in accordance with the Fort Bragg Water Conservation Policy, Corvias Military Living policies and community irrigation policies. On Fort Bragg, the Water Conservation Policy prescribes an odd-even watering schedule for military facilities. Buildings with numbers ending in odd numerals should irrigate only on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays while buildings with numbers ending in even numerals should irrigate only on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Irrigation should be limited to 40 minutes at each location and should be conducted between the hours of 7 AM to 10 AM and 6 PM to 9 PM.

Choose native plants for your landscape. Native plants are suited to the often hot and arid climate of the Sandhills, so they are usually drought tolerant and require less maintenance.

– Collect rain water in containers and use it to irrigate plants.

– Use a broom instead of a hose to clean hardscapes.

– If you have a pool, install a cover to prevent water evaporation.

– Practice pollution prevention by properly containing litter and waste, especially cigarette remnants. Remember: only rain in the storm drain!

– Avoid the use of chemicals. If you must use chemicals, use them wisely.

– Monitor your utility bill for unusually excessive water consumption, which may indicate a leak.

– Promptly report or repair leaks. In military facilities, contact the Directorate of Public Works at 396.0321 to place a service order. In post housing, contact Corvias Military Living.