Hand holding sweetgum ball
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Clever Ways Our Master Gardener Uses Sweetgum Balls In The Garden
When your sweetgum tree (Liquidambar styraciflua) drops its spiky gumballs, they’re a nuisance if they fall on a walkway, as they’re unsightly and can easily cause you to slip.
However, master gardener Tiffany Selvey has several ways you can use them in your garden. Firstly, rake them under and around your plants to keep slugs, cats, and squirrels away.
Enhance clay soil by using a mulching mower with a bag attachment to shred the gumballs and till them into the soil, or add them whole so they break down and add organic matter.
To improve drainage, put gumballs in the bottom of a planter before adding soil. Add them to the bottom of raised garden beds to take up space and to the top to keep critters out.
Birds also eat gumball seeds, and since they fall year-round, they provide a constant source of food that’s especially popular during winter when other food sources are scarce.
Dry gumballs work well as kindling in a woodstove or outdoor fire pit and are long-lasting. You can also burn them and spread the ash in the garden to give it a dose of potassium.