Episode 7: What's The Best Kind Of Mulch?


About This Episode

In this week’s episode of Ask Grumpy, Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener, shares everything you need to know about mulch. Plus, he highlights his favorite perennials: catmint.

Question: Some people mulch with pine straw, and others use wood chips. Which is better?

Grumpy Gardener Answer: The kind of mulch that you should use is the kind that's readily-available in your area. Depending on where you live, you can have lots of pine trees and you're going to have pine straw. You might have lots of hardwoods, and then you're going to have hardwood mulch. If you live far down South, a lot of times you have cypress mulch that's made out of cypress trees. I've seen people use cocoa shells. But it really depends on what's available and the kind of look that you like. I think either wood chips or pine straw makes really nice mulch. I like to use pine straw myself because I have long-leaf pines in my yard. I get all the mulch that I need. It's an acid-forming mulch as it decomposes, so it's great to put underneath azaleas, etc. Don't use any kind of manufactured stuff. They have this garbage out there right now, it's called Rubber Mulch. You don't want that. Don't use white rock, please, especially in the South, because it gets really hot and bright here, especially in the summer. And if you've got that all around your house, when you come out of the door it just doesn't look right. Also, please don't use lava rock.

So use a natural mulch. You want to use something that's based on wood or pine straw or something like that that's organic, because not only does it keep down weeds and keep the soil moist, but as it decomposes it puts organic matter into the soil, and for soil, organic matter is just gold.

Plant Of The Week: Catmint

About Catmint

Catmint is a perennial with a tidy shape. It grows into a low mound of, maybe a foot tall, and then eventually, two feet wide or so. It's sterile, which means it doesn't produce seeds. So, why is that good? Well, when plants produce seed, it takes a lot of their energy to produce seed, so they may stop blooming. Catmint doesn't produce any seed, so it just keeps blooming on and off all summer. And the blooms are really pretty. Most of the kinds that you'll get have either blue flowers or purple flowers. And it doesn't need a whole lot of care. It likes to have good drainage, and it needs to have sun. And that's about it. And, by the way, even though it's not as favored by cats as catnip, I will tell you that the first time I had it in my garden, my cats found out it was there. That was their favorite place in the whole garden. I'd come out there, and my cat, Jean-Luc, would be snoozing on top of the plant. But, it is a really good plant, you can get it at most garden centers. And for something that's going to make a nice, tidy mound, and give you blue or purple flowers all summer long, it looks so great when it's combined with things that have pink, yellow, or white flowers, it's one of my favorite perennials. The foliage is also very aromatic, so you'll like that too.

About Ask Grumpy

Introducing Ask Grumpy, a new podcast featuring Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. For more than 20 years, Grumpy has been sharing advice on what to grow, when to plant, and how to manage just about anything in your garden. Tune in for short episodes every Wednesday and Saturday as Grumpy answers reader questions, solves seasonal conundrums, and provides need-to-know advice for gardeners with his very Grumpy sense of humor. Be sure to follow Ask Grumpy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode.

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

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