Even for a seasoned gardener, the choice of mulch can be daunting. You know that mulching is important—it keeps weeds down and lends a cohesive element to your landscaping. But choosing to mulch is just the first step. Here is a breakdown of mulch types to help guide your gardening journey.
The first basic distinction between types of mulch is organic (plant matter) versus inorganic (non-plant-based materials). Organic mulches include straw, wood chips, and compost. Inorganic mulches include plastic-based weed barrier fabric, gravel, rubber chunks and rock. While all mulches can do a good job of staving off weeds, many gardeners prefer mulching with organic materials because they break down and add nutrients to the soil.
Before choosing a mulch, consider the area where you’re going to have it applied. While you may prefer the manicured look of colored wood chips, putting them in a windy area is not going to work out very well. Rocks or gravel can be perfect for these types of areas. Likewise, consider whether you are using the mulch temporarily or permanently. If you want to start some annual flowers a little early, grass clippings or straw are great insulators. They also carry a lot of weed seeds and should either be raked out or turned under the soil within a week or two.
As a weed barrier, mulch can be applied throughout the year. To get the most out of its insulating properties, it’s a good idea to install it at the beginning of the growing season. If you are attempting to overwinter tender perennials or recent transplants, you should also apply mulch to those plants in the fall. To be effective barriers to weed growth, mulch needs to be applied three to four inches deep. This means that your garden will greedily eat up that enormous pile that gets dropped off in your drive way.
Talk to your local gardening expert about beautifying your landscape and simplifying its maintenance needs by mulching with a quality product.