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Recycling Everyday Items as Alternatives to Cypress Mulch

written by: J.C. Wilkinson•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 7/7/2011

Cypress mulch is beautiful, but it's production destroys thousands of old growth cypress trees each year. There are renewable alternatives that will save money and our old growth cypress forests.

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    Alternatives to Cypress Mulch in the Garden

    Going green means making choices that you normally wouldn't make. Recycling is one of those choices, but better than recycling is repurposeing readily available items in your garden as alternatives to cypress mulch.

    When we think of mulch, we see beautiful, well manicured gardens with perfect, uniform cypress mulch. The truth is, producing that perfect cypress mulch is destroying our wetlands and actually harming our environment. While pine bark mulches are the byproduct of pine tree use for lumber and paper, the production of cypress mulch uses the entire tree.

    The clear cutting of thousands of acres of century old cypress trees every year contributes to erosion and destroys a natural barrier against hurricanes. Contrary to what the logging industry is saying, the cypress trees are not growing back.

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    Myths and Money

    The New Orleans Times Picayune reported on June 21, 2008:

    "People think that cypress mulch is more rot-resistant and insect-resistant, but scientists at the University of Florida have shown that there are equally effective sustainable alternatives that don't deplete our natural wetlands and don't deprive our gardens of the benefits of mulching," said Dan Favre, campaign manager of the nonprofit Gulf Restoration Network. "The really sad piece of all this is that the popularity of cypress mulch is predicated on myths."

    There are more economical and greener alternatives to cypress mulch. Recycling readily available items we are currently sending to our landfills can eliminate, or at least lessen our use of cypress mulch.

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    Recycling Cardboard as an Alternative to Cypress Mulch

    Cardboard boxes make excellent underlayment in the garden, and they are free for the asking from groceries and retailers. Not only does laying down cardboard stop weeds, but it decomposes and enriches the soil. Using a single layer of cardboard as underlayment in your garden will substitute for an inch of cypress mulch, reducing your use by 33%. Then why not lay two layers of cardboard and reduce your use of cypress mulch by 66%? An inch of cypress mulch is plenty enough for appearances sake.

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    Recycling Leaves as an Alternative to Cypress Mulch

    People rake leaves every fall, and in the case of live oak trees, every spring as well. Leaves not only make an excellent addition to compost piles, but they are also and excellent mulch. Pine straw is one of the best mulches there is, because the needles overlap to form a mat that no weed can work its way through. The best thing about recycling leaves and pine straw into your garden as mulch is that it can be worked right into the soil in the spring, adding organic matter that repels nematodes and feeds your plants.

    With all these free alternatives to cypress mulch all around us, why are we still destroying our wetlands and forests for appearances sake? Recycling these readily available natural and biodegradeable materials as mulch in our gardens will save our forests, enrich our soils, and make our planet a much better place to live.

    REFERENCES: J.C. Wilkinson holds a degree in horticulture and the information in this article is from her own knowledge and experience.