Using Mulch in Your Garden

Mulch in a flower bed

Types of Mulch

Mulch is both functional and decorative, with many different types available. When choosing mulch, consider the density and texture relative to the plants in your garden. Tender seedlings will have a hard time pushing through a thick layer of coarse mulch while large areas around trees and shrubs may benefit from a heavy weed-preventative barrier.

While your choice of mulching material should primarily be based on its purpose, it’s also a matter of taste and budget. Some popular options include:

Organic Mulches that Break Down in One Season

  • Leaves: While readily available, uncomposted leaves are susceptible to blowing winds when dry and can pack down tightly when wet. Perfect for natural areas, they work best in formal gardens when composted first.
  • Pine straw used as mulch
    Pine straw used as mulch.
  • Grass Clippings: Plentiful during the mowing season, lawn clippings provide great soil amendment but may look messy until they begin to break down.
  • Compost: Compost packs a double punch as both mulch and an excellent organic fertilizer.
  • Paper: A layer of old newspapers work great as a weed barrier underneath mulch or straw. Try to use papers with biodegradable inks. Shredded waste paper may also be used.
  • Hay and Straw: Often used for newly seeded lawns and vegetable gardens since they break down quickly. Hay and straw often contain seeds that may sprout.
  • Other Mulch: Less common (but effective) one-season organic mulches include shredded corn stalks, manure, peat moss, and rice hulls.


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12 COMMENTS

  1. You can buy polished river stones that look more like the wet stones. For a sample, check out:

    http://rocktumblingsupplies.com/polished_river_rocks.htm

    As for the bulk river stones at your local landscaping supply yard, the only solution I know of is to coat them with a “wet look” sealer, lacquer, or shellac. One example of such a product can be found at:

    http://www.glaze-n-seal.com/sealers.html

    I would recommend reserving that method for stones that will not be in contact with dirt or ground water, due to the environmental impact. Practically speaking, the sealers work best with stones imbedded in mortar, such as on a fireplace or backsplash.

    If you find any other solution, please share. The stones just come to life when they are wet – it’s amazing.

  2. QUESTION: A SECTION OF MY FRONT YARD HAS THE 1/2″ ROCKS
    WHERE I HAVE PLANTED VARIOUS PERINNIALS; CAN I SPREAD MULCH ON TOP OF THE ROCK AND THEN MORE 1/2″ COLORED ROCK ON TOP OF THE MULCH OR DO I NEED TO REMOVE THE ROCK FIRST IN ORDER TO SPREAD THE MULCH?

  3. My neighbour cut a tree and the lanscaping company which cut the tree was kind enough to give a half load of natural wood mulch. Is there a way to color these wood chips to Cedar red color, so that it goes well with my lanscape?

    Any input will be helpful.

  4. Hi! Most of my plants are actually in pots, whereas most of the tips I find are for full scale gardens. Should the same principles apply? I really just want to mulch so I can recycle organic material in the garden.

  5. I was talking to a landscaper, he was telling me he added something to the mulch to weigh it down. I cannot remember what it was. Any ideas?

  6. I was told from someone who does pest control that mulch and pine straw next to the house are bad because of termites. Living in Florida i want to do all I can to keep termites away. What kind of mulch or ground cover do you recommend next to the house?

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