Growth Response of Marigolds (Tagetes erecta `Hybrid Gold') in Mulched Landscape Plantings

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701

The effects of a mulch material on nutrient availability remain questionable. As organic materials decompose, the increased activity of microorganisms immobilizes nutrients (particularly nitrogen) to preform this process. The decomposition of mulch material and the activity of microorganisms may then compete for nutrients applied to ornamental species in the landscape. To examine this question, four widely available mulch materials (pine bark, cypress pulp, pine straw, and cottonseed hulls) and three fertilizer application methods (granule, liquid, and time release), which were applied either above or below the mulch, were established. Beds with and without mulch cover and no fertilization were established as controls. Marigolds, Tagetes erecta `Hybrid Gold', were planted within the beds. Growth response was found to be greatest in beds with cottonseed hulls. Cottonseed hulls are reported to have a high nitrogen content of their own that may influence less immobilization of nitrogen for decomposition. Beds using pinebark showed significant reduction in plant growth. Fertilization application method also demonstrated significant differences in plant response. The use of a granule fertilizer produced the greatest growth response although initial plant loss was observed in beds using this method. The fast release nature of granule fertilizer and potential toxicity were the suspected reason for this observation. Growth data indicated plant performance was unaffected by fertilizer placement.