Mulch with Seashells to Add Calcium
Choose a semi-permanent material that is slow to decompose
Mulching your garden is generally thought of as the single-most important thing you can do to help maintain your garden beds. Regular mulching helps hold moisture in the soil, keeps root temperature eve, and also controls weeds by either blocking or smothering out the weed seeds. By using natural mulch, you are also contributing to a stronger soil structure in the landscape. As the mulch breaks down, it is integrated into the soil, thereby creating a system that helps better support your plants. There are many types of natural mulch with strong organic matter percentages: Leaf mold, cocoa shell mulch, shredded bark, pine needles, straw, wood chips, and grass clippings, for instance. Even compost can be used as an effective mulch if a heavy layer is applied as a topdressing over the soil. Do not use horticultural fabric under mulch; weeds continue to form on top of the fabric and it does not allow nutrients to enter the root zone. Simply place the mulch directly on to the soil.
There are times, however, when it is appropriate to choose a mulch that does not break down as quickly. Decorative mulches with a long shelf life include lava rock, shale, river stone, small pebbles, lime and granite screenings, glass, and seashells. Utilizing seashells as mulch is an excellent garden hack (especially in areas where shells are used for road beds and are practically free) for adding calcium and phosphates to the soil as well as for deterring snails and other insects that do not like the sharp shell edges.
Much like pebbles, seashells help hold the soil in around a planting bed and keep the soil cool and moist. Although many companies are now dyeing seashells, it is better to choose an all-natural, undyed lot. Maintenance for this type of mulch is simple: Regularly blow debris off with a leaf blower. Seashells are not a solution for wet or consistently damp areas as the seashells will become overgrown with moss. Sunny sites are best. Eventually the seashells will start to decompose, but it takes years and years for this to happen, making them a decorative and creative mulch solution with longevity.
Cover courtesy of Cool Springs Press
More from 101 Organic Gardening Hacks:
For more gardening hacks and ideas, come to the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Fair where Shawna Coronado will be taking questions and presenting on organic gardening hacks and gardening with chronic pain.
Reprinted with permission from 101 Organic Gardening Hacks by Shawna Coronado and published by Cool Springs Press, 2017.