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.
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.