Cultivating healthy boxwoods begins with soil care. From shredded bark to pine straw, find the best organic mulch to give you thriving boxwoods
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Wood chips or shredded bark make excellent mulch for Boxwoods, enriching the soil as they slowly decompose over several years.
Pine needles or pine straw allow water to penetrate easily and don’t wash away quickly, providing a natural mulch option for sloped areas.
Grass clippings can be used as an organic mulch material, but be cautious of using them if you’ve treated your grass with herbicides.
Boxwoods (Buxus spp.) are plants people commonly use as a hedge or living barrier in their landscape design. They grow in zones 5 to 9; many people find them useful for their glossy, lush leaves and thick stature. Boxwood thrives very well with mulch spread around their bases, but which ones work best, and how do you get the most out of their application?
Shredded Bark or Wood Chips
Close up of wood chip mulch
Wood chips or shredded bark is very popular to put around Boxwoods because it lasts roughly five years and comes in various particle sizes. When you spread it, the bark decomposes very slowly, reducing the number of times you need to replace it per season. As it breaks down, it’ll enrich the soil with calcium, phosphorus, nitrogen, and sulfur to encourage good growth from your shrubs. Roughly ⅓ of the wood chips will decompose within three to six months, and you want to reapply it once every one to two years.
As wood chips break down, they will lower the soil’s pH, making it more acidic. So, be aware of your plant specific pH needs.
Pine Needles or Pine Straw
Piine straw mulch in bales
Pine needles or pine straw are loose, letting water penetrate the soil easily when you water, or when it rains. It also doesn’t compact by foot traffic or wash away as quickly as finer mulches can. Additionally, the needles can weave together to prevent them from washing away if used on sloped areas of the yard. As this mulch breaks down over the course of a few years, it adds calcium, nitrogen, magnesium, and phosphorus into the soil. Depending on your location, you could find yourself reapplying your pine straw or needles every year or two.
Leaf mulch in a garden tunnel
Leaves are a natural choice for mulch, and depending on your location, they’re often readily available to scoop up from September onwards. As the leaves break down, they add organic matter to the soil, giving nutrients like carbon and protein to the microbial community. In turn, this can improve the soil’s structure. However, if you use leaves, shred or chop them before you spread them out to prevent matting. Matting can create issues with air circulation, and it’s harder for water to get to the soil. You’ll replace them roughly once a year.
Piles of freshly mowed grass clippings
If you apply grass clippings in thin 2 inch or fewer layers, you can use them as an organic mulch material. They start breaking down immediately, adding nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil around your Boxwoods. Since they have a quicker breakdown, you’ll most likely replace them every few weeks. However, ensure you don’t treat your grass with herbicides before using it for mulch because this can contribute to dieback.
Cocoa Bean Shells or Husks
Fresh cocoa husks in a jar
Cocoa bean shells bring a very rich brown coloring to your space and produce a light chocolate scent. Spread them generously around the base of your Boxwood shrubs, leaving a few inches between the shells and the base of your shrubs to allow for good air circulation. You will have to replace your cocoa bean husks annually as they tend to break down quickly.
Cocoa bean shells can be toxic if your dogs ingest them, so be wary if you use them with pets around.
Composthands holding compost soil
Ordinary garden compost is a mix of organic matter that gets decomposed and used as a soil amendment and fertilizer. It is a crucial component of organic farming and gardening because it adds nutrients to the soil, like potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Compost can increase the holding capacity for water in sandy soil by slowing the water flow. It can also act like a glue to hold the soil together due to the humus content that appears when organic matter decays. Work roughly 1 inch of compost into the top 3 inches of soil for trees and shrubs, replenishing it annually or semi-annually.
Tips for Using Organic Mulch With Boxwoods
Small Boxwood with wood chip mulch
Using organic mulch around these shrubs can make them healthier and give them shinier, more lush looks due to the nutrients the mulch adds to the soil as it breaks down. Here are a few tips to ensure you get the most out of your mulch:
Before you apply the mulch, clear the area of weeds. Organic mulches can suppress weeds to an extent, but starting with a clear space will give you better results. If the soil is dry, water around your Boxwoods thoroughly so the ground retains the moisture and reduces how much you have to water from the start.
Spread your mulch 2 to 4 inches deep around your Boxwood shrubs. This depth is usually enough to suppress weeds because they need light to germinate. Additionally, it can help regulate the soil temperature by blocking sunlight without suffocating your plant’s roots and retain moisture.
Keep your organic mulch 2 to 3 inches from the Boxwood stem’s base to prevent moisture from building up on the stem. If moisture collects, this can increase the risk of disease and rot. You may hear this clear ring around your Boxwoods called a “mulch-free donut.”
Organic Mulches Are Great for Boxwoods
No matter which organic mulch you choose to go with, it can benefit your Boxwoods by adding nutrients to the soil, retaining moisture, and suppressing weed growth.
Do you have a favorite organic mulch you use with your gardening projects? Comment below about your experience!
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