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Azalea mulch

Hi all. Looking for a mulch for a large mature azalea/rhododendron border. I have been trying to find someone selling pine needle mulch/straw but having no joy. I understand oak leaf mulch is good too - I could bring plenty of that in from another garden. Any other suggestions or suppliers for the pine needles? Unfortunately due to the volume required going to bracknell forest to gather some isn't really viable  (or legal? ). Maybe a tree surgeon in high Wycombe area might have some pine needle rich chippings?  Thanks. Glen. 

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  • Bracken or ferns are just as good as a mulch. You can literally cut them down and then lay them on the ground beneath the azelea or rhododendrons to rot down. This is what the gardeners did on the country estates in Victorian Times. You could always shred them if you prefer but do ensure the ground has been watered before hand. If your customer can wait, do this this in the autumn. As you say, pine needles would be a good option.


    • Thanks Andrew. Bracken might be an achievable plan b.

  • Back to my rhododendron mulching / feeding issue, has anyone used sulphate of iron as a top dress feed? Any opinions? 

    • Iron sulphate is great as a top dressing for ericaceous shrubs if they need it. Most bark chip mulches are acidic, so you’re best bet is to apply a iron top dressing with a bark chip mulch. Country Supplies in Hughenden is my go-to supplier for bark chip mulches, have a word with them and see what they’ve got.

      • Thanks Sean. Yep sounds like iron feed and mulch is my way forward. 

  • I have used iron sulphate too on several of my customers' rhododendrons and azelaes as a top up. The time to do this is the spring with the ground moist and warming up. As mentioned earlier, mulching is critical to retain moisture and suppress weed while allowing the mulch to break down slowly releasing nutrients. By and large azelaes are shallow rooted so do need a good mulch for the above reason. This summer has been exceptionally hot and dry, so I would be planning this for best spring. (In fact, I would go on to say all the beds will need a good mulch for next year) Liquid foliar feed is also a help, especially on camellias. 

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