Rhododendron Culture with a Dutch Scuffle Hoe
Mark G. Konrad, M.D., Sewickley, PA.
Since rhododendron are naturally fibrous and shallow rooted, cultivation is not recommended. The superficial scuffling of the mulch around them, however, can be quite beneficial. I found this out by accident in the attempt to control certain weeds which grow rampantly in the type of mulch I use. This is a base of oak leaves to which grass clippings are added during the course of a summer. The use of a riding mower with a rear mounted catcher attachment produces a large volume of grass during the growing season.
Scuffling allows for the mixing of the leaves, grass and a small amount of soil. Not only are the weeds controlled but the mulch becomes more pervious to water. The rhododendron take on a new luster and vigor which I attribute to a more rapid breakdown of the mulch along with increased aeration. Possibly, undesirable small animals are better controlled and an increased amount of food is noted for bird life. As a gentle, productive form of exercise scuffling offers an extra bonus. Scuffling the rhododendron family is by no means a panacea, but try it you might like it.