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Prairie Mulch?

As pollinator plants establish a stronger footing in the home landscape, we find the need for shredded hardwood mulch waning. I’m yet to walk about a natural prairie (the foundation of many great pollinator gardens) and see tidy rings of hardwood mulch around the plants. If I were to pull back the vegetation I would find decomposing plant material from last season.

It’s a bit perplexing to me why we think these water-wise, drought tolerant plants would want to be blanketed in hardwood mulch. I understand that old habits are hard to break. A good garden is a well-mulched garden is a long held garden belief. As we shift our garden themes, philosophies and motivation (planting for pollinators) we need to resist our older gardening tendencies.

I do not object to mulch in pollinator gardens. I like the look a well selected mulch can give a newly planted garden that is yet to establish or an end-of-season garden that’s ready for a winter slumber. But it’s the selection of the mulch that makes or breaks the garden.

I prefer, hands down, pinestraw.

  • It won’t smother a plant and cause stem rot.
  • It’s far easier to move two bales of pinestraw than two bags of mulch.
  • It’s easier to spread. Sure, I don’t want it on my plants, but if it was and I was too worn out to shake off the pinestraw, the plants would not suffer.
  • There’s minimal waste. Say goodbye to plastic bags, all you have left is twine, which has its use in the garden.
  • Pinestraw offers better air and water circulation than a thick covering of shredded mulch – ideal for drought tolerant plants that prefer not to have their feet constantly moist.


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