Your Garden's Mulch Has a Dirty Secret

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One thing about the pandemic that nobody saw coming? We're all way more interested in our hobbies. For some people, that's knitting or gaming or baking bread. For others, it's gardening — getting out in the dirt and the sunshine and beautifying the space where you spend all your time now.

Unfortunately, we live in a society, and that means that no matter how pure your intentions, somebody is out to make a buck off your enthusiasm. Agricultural science researchers at Penn State University have just released a paper with some damning statistics about the mulch you're spreading around your garden. You may have been attracted to claims of all-cypress bags, which are supposed to keep out pests, deter rot, and generally keep your yard looking its best with minimal effort for you. That might be the case for some vendors, but many brands have little to no cypress mulch in their products at all.

This sort of problem isn't unique to gardening — seafood is notoriously dicey when it comes to sourcing. Some studies have found that between one-quarter and one-third of the fish available for sale at markets isn't remotely what the label says.

For those who are now disillusioned with the market for mulch, this isn't always something the consumer can do much about it. Regulators need to get on top of manufacturers for misleading practices. Until then, ask your garden center experts which mulch they trust, and be sure you investigate what you do buy as best you can.