How to Pick the Right Mulch

Gardening, Home, Home & Family, Living Green
on May 21, 2014

Mulch is a gardening gift. It smothers weeds, conserves moisture, builds soil fertility, insulates plant roots and beautifies any flower, shrub or vegetable bed.

Apply no more than a 2-inch layer. Deeper coverings can compact, robbing plants and soil of life-giving air and water, as well as promote fungus and other diseases. Use this guide to pick the right mulch for your plants, soil and budget.

Pine bark: Holds up the longest, is inexpensive, loosens heavy soils, promotes root growth and adds acidity to soil. Unlike other mulches, it doesn’t compact.

Shredded hardwood: Dyed black, brown, orange or red, it’s an attractive landscape element. Tends to compact but is moderately priced.

Shredded cedar bark: Resistant to decay, repels insects and holds moisture efficiently. Doesn’t rot as fast as other woods.

Straw and pine straw: Excellent vegetable garden mulch and winter protection for tender plants. Don’t buy hay, as it contains weed seeds that can sprout in your garden.

Cocoa bean hulls: Best mulch for maintaining soil moisture and excellent for rose beds. Smells like chocolate and deters slugs and termites. Don’t use if your dog has access to landscaped areas, as cocoa bean mulch is toxic to dogs if ingested.

Stone, marble chips or gravel: Use around trees, cacti and succulents. Absorbs heat and cold, keeping soil more temperate. Inappropriate for vegetable gardens and flower beds.

Grass clippings: Mix with shredded leaves or bark to avoid matting. Good for vegetable beds. If you apply weed killer to your lawn, don’t use the clippings, as they will kill plants.

Leaves: Shred fallen leaves with a mower before applying to beds. Leaves decompose rapidly and build soil fertility.

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