Mulch Options for Florida Homeowners

Mulch can make a world of a difference when it comes to caring for and maintaining your garden. And with several mulch options available to Sarasota area homeowners, you can enjoy all of the benefits of this important landscaping staple.

Mulch can greatly improve the health, quality and aesthetic appeal of your yard and garden.


  • From a visual standpoint, mulch establishes defined beds with a crisp, uniform appearance.
  • Once applied, mulch creates a buffer against environmental extremes. protecting the soil, plants and roots.
  • Mulch helps keep the soil cool during scorching summers, and retains warmth in cooler winter weather.
  • Mulch retains moisture better than our sandy soils and slows the rate of water evaporation from the soil surface, meaning you can water less frequently.
  • Mulch prevents soil compaction and erosion that can occur during heavy storms.
  • Mulch hinders weed growth and slows the spread of disease from soil organisms.

Mulch Types for Homeowners

When preparing to mulch your garden, you encounter many different mulching materials–from wood chips to compost, plastic mats to grass clippings. While there is not a universally ideal mulch, there are key factors to consider when choosing a type of mulch for your garden.

Bark mulches: Most bulk mulches are derived from fir, pine, or spruce. They come in three sizes, each used for different purposes–bark chunks (a very popular mulch), bark granules, and shredded bark. Bark mulches don’t compact or move easily, which is great for areas that receive frequent heavy rain and strong winds during hurricane season. They’re attractive, come in a spectrum of colors, and are widely available locally. However, if too fresh, barks can leach toxins into the soil which will particularly harm young plants. Buying bagged mulch reduces this risk, as the bark undergoes a standard aging process to reduce these toxins. Barks are best used in shrub or tree beds where the plants are established.

Wood mulch: These mulches are inexpensive and easily obtained for use in shrub or flower beds. However, most lose their color after a single season. They can also allow growth of fungus as they rot, so replacing them annually becomes important.

Sawdust: Sawdust acidifies the soil–great for acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhododendrons, and evergreens. It can also help balance soil pH when your soil is alkaline from calcium in broken-down seashells. These mulches require regular maintenance though, as they compact significantly within one growing season. You will need to rake and fluff them regularly.

Pine needles: These mulches also acidify soil, but do not compact like sawdust and are long-lasting. Pine needles are great to use around ornamentals. While not available for purchase in most areas, the needles can easily be gathered from local areas with pine trees.

Black plastic: This mulching method is often used for vegetable or fruit gardens. The plastic suppresses weed growth and retains moisture by preventing evaporation. Unfortunately, this plastic also prevents water from entering the covered area, rendering it difficult to water garden beds. If you use it in crop rows where there are exposed areas between stretches of black plastic, then it should not be an issue.

Mulch options give your gardens and flower beds the protection they need to thrive in our Florida climate. If you need more information – or are ready to purchase – visit one of Big Earth Landscape Supply’s 4 area locations.