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Organic or Inorganic mulching materials?
I grew up thinking that all mulching materials were organic: leaves, compost, bark, woodchips, grass clippings, etc. But moving to California has been an eyeopener.
My home state of Arkansas is a moist area and native and adapted plants love mositure. They wouldn't survive otherwise. But here in Southern California, we have a dry climate. Desert. High desert. And variations of desert climates.
Many plants here live in rocky areas or sandy areas. I've observed how few landscapers use mulch and have frowned at this practice -- all that bare dirt wafting mositure into the hot sunny skies! But I stand corrected. While bare dirt might not be the answer -- organic mulches such as wood chips, compost, etc. aren't necessarily the answer, either.
Some low water plants suffer from too much moisture, and from the added nutrients provided by decaying organic mulch. A couple native California plants in this category include Manzanitas and Fremontodendron.
Inorganic muches for these plants would include chipped stone and paving with flagstones. Decomposed granite makes a good coarse gravel. Not just any stone. But local stone, if you want to be environmentally friendly. Think of all the hauling involved -- do you really want heavy load of rocks being transported hundreds or thousands of miles to help you be environmentally friendly?
There are additional issues such as rocks carrying invasive plants and insects and animals in them as they are shipped from area to area. Invasive species is a major danger for our own native species. So before you buy rocks or wood from another country, think about what this import could be harboring in addition to low prices or beauty.
Being close to the earth is never simple. And simple answers seldom take into account the wondrous complexity of nature. But we must think, refine our practices and continue to learn from our teacher, Mother Nature.
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