Mulch your garden frequently to keep it weed free, improve soil health, and give it a well-groomed and professional look. Adding mulch also retains moisture in the soil and prevents evaporation. Instead of purchasing expensive mulch from nurseries or stores, you can use items from your home and garden such as pebbles, compost, wood chips, bark, grass clipping, or decaying leaves. Organic mulches that break down in the soil include crushed shells, bark chips, straw, and compost. Follow these steps to mulch your garden using something as simple and ordinary as crushed shells.
Step 1 - Get Shells
You can purchase shells from a landscape material supplier, but depending on the size of your lawn, these could get costly. An alternative is to contact your local seafood restaurant and ask them for shells. They are frequently more than willing to get rid of them, at a nominal price.
Step 2 - Clean Shells
Be sure to thoroughly wash and boil the shells because the salt that may be encrusted on these shells will be added to the soil which can burn nearby plants. Boiling will also rid the shells of the smell that may be transferred to the garden.
While there is no need to break small sized shells like mussels into tiny pieces, the big ones will need treatment. Cover large full shells such as oyster and crab shells in a cloth and use a hammer to break them into several smaller pieces.
Step 3 - Apply a Layer to Your Garden
Collect all the crushed shells in a thick cloth or tarp and move outdoors to your garden. Apply a layer of crushed shells mulch over the garden surface. To do this, simply throw the crushed shells over the site you want to mulch, whether it is a flower bed, a vegetable patch, a portion of your lawn, or the area around a tree.
The best time to add this organic mulch is later spring or early summer when the soil is warm. These shells will provide the soil the minerals and calcium they need as they decay, allowing you to save money in the long run on soil additives and amendments.
Step 4 - Spread the Mulch
Add at least 2 inches of crushed shells over the area you want to mulch. Seashells decay slowly, preventing the need to replenish the mulch for at least two years.
Seashell mulch is good for all types of plants such as perennials, annuals, trees, vines, ground covers, and many vegetables. You can also add it to flowerpots to enhance their appearance.
Step 5 - Water the Mulch
Water the mulch thoroughly after you spread it to allow all the pieces to interlock and prevent them from blowing away with strong winds or heavy rain. The seashells will resemble a light colored carpet of mulch that reflects the suns heat to keep the soil and roots cool.
If, however, the need to compost any particular area of your garden arises, simply rake the crushed seashells mulch aside, lay the desired composted material and replace the shells over the site.