What Is The Best Mulch?
Mulch is a life-saver in the garden. When used effectively, this layer of material can help you grow a healthier garden with fewer weeds that resists drought. You’ll find that with mulching, you’ll spend less time watering, weeding, and even fighting pests that wreak havoc in your otherwise well-tended yard.
Today we’ll be exploring some of the types of mulch you can use in your garden and find out which one is best for you. Let’s get started
Mulch is a protective and potentially nutritional barrier placed around plants to improve both the health of your garden as well as its appearance. It come in two basic kinds: organic and inorganic.
Organic mulch is sourced from formerly living material. It can be anything from chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, shredded bark, sawdust, pine needles, to paper. Meanwhile, inorganic mulch refers to man-made products like gravel, stones, black plastic, and geotextiles.
Despite the difference in materials, all forms of mulch pretty much function the same way. They serve to:
– Reduce water loss from the soil by slowing evaporation and improving water absorption
– Slowing down weed growth
– Improving soil quality as they decompose (particularly organic mulch)
– Protecting plant roots from temperature extremes and sudden fluctuations
– Adding color and texture to your garden’s overall design
Types of Mulch You Can Use In Your Garden and When to Use Them
Mulch can come from many different materials. You can either purchase it in bags at the gardening store or you can obtain them for free from your garden or home. Here are the most common types of mulch you can use as a ground cover for your garden:
When you’re researching the question: What Is The Best Mulch, this one is probably the first type you’ll come across.
Cedar mulch comes from waste products of the cedar tree. In the US, it is obtained from two varieties namely Cedrus. and Thuja. Cedar is known for its antibacterial and anti fungal benefits. It is also touted for its ability to keep away moths, beetles, ants, and cockroaches.
While cedar wood chips make for an excellent mulch, it may be less than ideal if there is someone in your household who is sensitive to its scent. It may also not be good for acidic soil as it tends to affect the pH balance of soil particularly if used fresh.
Cedar mulch is best used for established trees and shrubs, as well as in perennial gardens.
Sawdust is an inexpensive and readily available mulching material for your garden. It can be used to repel pests and deter weeds. When used fresh, it has an acidifying effect on soil which makes it an excellent mulch of choice for you plant acid-loving plants such as conifers, blueberries, strawberries, and rhododendrons.
There are different kinds of straw mulch to choose from including straw from alfalfa plants, and straw made from stubble left after harvesting cereal crops. It adds nitrogen to soil, prevents soil erosion, and helps keep soil temperature consistent.
It is a great option if you are growing strawberries since it keeps slugs away from your fruits and it keeps mud away during rainy seasons.
Pine needle mulch, also called pine straw, is obtained from foliage that drops from pine trees. It can be purchased in 15 to 40 lb. bales. It is a lightweight mulch that breaks down slower than bark mulch so it can provide its benefits for much longer. It is an excellent addition to flower beds where you grow acid-loving plants such as hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and camellias.
However, you must take care when using pine needle mulch since it is extremely slippery when dry. It can also catch fire easily so be wary if you live in a wildfire danger zone.
Newspaper is another great option as it is relatively free. However, it must be noted that newspaper may increase carbon levels in your soil and may also decrease nitrogen activity. It is also not ideal if you are mulching over seeds since they cannot poke through paper when they shoot up.
Using old newspapers in your garden is an excellent way to recycle and to keep your yard healthy. It is an excellent material for protecting your plants from the freeze/thaw cycle in the fall, retaining moisture during the summer, and suffocating weeds the rest of the year.
Not too many years ago when someone asked: What Is The Best Mulch, this option wouldn’t have been included as it is a relatively new option, compared to the others.
Geotextiles are any permeable textile material used to increase soil stability, provide erosion control, or aid in drainage. Typically made from polypropylene or polyester, geotextile fabrics come in three basic forms: woven (resembling mail bag sacking), needle punched (resembling felt), or heat bonded (resembling ironed felt). However, since it is inorganic, it does not improve soil structure, add organic materials, or provide nutrients.
Stone mulch is an excellent alternative to typical wood varieties of mulch. Apart from the usual benefits, it also does not require constant reapplication since they don’t decompose. Stone mulch stabilizes soil and reduces erosion, while improving the appearance of the garden. They also come in a wide variety of sizes, colors, and textures which easily adds an aesthetic interest to your garden.
Having this information you can now choose which one is best for your needs. Next time someone ask what is the best mulch for the garden, you can give them an informed and helpful answer.
What do you use in your garden? Do you like it? Have you ever used anything else or do you want to try using a different kind? Let us know in the comments below.
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