Can Your Flower Beds Help Save The Earth?
By, Kris Lieber
Owner, Green Thumb Garden Center
22963 Woodward Ave.
Ferndale, MI 48220
Flower beds are a great way to beautify and add curb appeal to your home while creating recreational and educational opportunities for yourself and your family. By selecting all-natural and eco-renewable products for your flower beds, you can also feel good about your commitment to protecting the environment and your community’s water table.
Utilizing mulch is one of the easiest ways to maintain your flower beds, but because traditional wood mulch is made from timber byproducts, it may contribute to deforestation and global warming. Recycled wood mulch sounds like a good idea, but these products typically contain chemicals and construction wastes that can leech into your soil and pollute the water table. Durability is another problem with wood mulch. Many people are surprised to learn that the color of traditional mulch is achieved through artificial dyes (definitely not an all-natural product!), yet it often fades to a washout color within the first year. And then there’s the hassle of dealing with those bulky, heavy bags that make a mess of your car trunk and your clothes when you lug them around. It’s always an unpleasant experience to discover that your bag of mulch has a puncture or tear. Leftover wood mulch is difficult to store because the moisture in the wood makes it susceptible to mold growth, so longevity is also an issue.
Concerned about the environmental impact of traditional wood mulch (or perhaps just fed up with its inconvenience), eco-conscious flower gardeners today are thrilled to find an earth-friendly alternative that also produces superior growing results in their flower beds.
Coir (pronounced “kwire”) is a form of mulch made from eco-renewable coconut husk. It is 100% natural, organic, and biodegradable. Coconuts, of course, are the seeds of palm trees, and a mature tree can produce 100 coconuts per year. The coir fibers are found between the hard, internal shell and the outer coat of the coconut—this means that coir can be produced without destroying the tree or wasting the edible coconut fruit. In effect, coir is produced by repurposing a part of the coconut that might otherwise be discarded as waste, though because of its strength and durability environmentalists are finding more and more uses for it—you’re likely to find coir as a component to many of your household goods in the future, from floor mats to paint brushes to reusable bags.
Aside from its overwhelming superiority from an environmental point of view, coir mulch provides a lot of practical benefits as well. Because coconuts contain lignin, a natural polymer resistant to decay, coir mulch lasts much longer than traditional wood mulch. It retains its (natural!) color longer. In fact over time coir mulch may slightly deepen in color.
Coir mulch is sold in compressed brick form to make it lighter, easier to carry and easier to fit into your car than traditional wood mulch. It won’t spill out of the bag and create a mess either, even if the bag was punctured. It stores easily and does not form mildew because the mulch is not pre-watered like drippy wood mulch is. Simply moisten the brick with a watering can or your garden hose, and the small, light-weight brick expands to the same size as a large 2 cubic foot bag of traditional wood mulch.
But your plants will prefer coir mulch for other reasons. Coir retains more water and evaporates more slowly than traditional wood mulch. Trials have shown 60% less moisture fluctuation and 40% less temperature fluctuation compared to wood mulch. It also wets and re-wets faster. Coir naturally has a higher air porosity for better aeration. And coir is free of bacteria and fungal spores. It’s also a natural deterrent for keeping snails away from delicate plantings.
Within the horticulture industry, coir is strongly recommended because it produces excellent results without the environmental damage caused by deforestation and peat mining.
Who knew that your flower beds could help save the earth?
Look for coir mulch (often called “coco coir” or “mulch brick”) at your local garden center. It comes in an easy to carry bag with a handle. Use a gardening shovel or rake to spread the mulch evenly, approximately 2-4 inches thick, on top of the soil of your flower bed. Don’t place mulch directly on top of plants or spread the mulch too thick because that could reduce the oxygen level of the soil and harm the plant’s roots. Coir mulch will help keep your plants happy and healthy, reduce your weeding and maintenance time, and create a nicely groomed look to your flower beds.
***Coco Coir mulch should not be confused with Cocoa Mulch which is a mulch alternative made from cocoa beans and sold by Home Depot and some other large garden stores. Veterinarians say that cocoa mulch poses a health risk to dogs and other pets because it contains two key ingredients found in chocolate. These ingredients can produce tremors and serious seizures. Coco Coir mulch is made from coconuts, not cocoa beans, and is safe for use around pets. Just another reason to shop local instead of at the big box stores!