Garden Mulch 101

March 27, 2023

Spring is just around the corner, which means it’s almost time to tend to your garden. There are many varieties of mulch; how do you choose what’s best for your garden? Which is best for minimizing weeds versus enhancing beds? Keep reading to discover the answers you are looking for. 

First things first; what is mulch, exactly? Mulch is any organic material used as a top dressing on garden beds. Some options include compost mulch, bark mulch, sawdust, shredded leaves, pine needles, grass clippings, straw, hay, etc. 

Why do gardeners use mulch, anyway? During the growing season, mulch deters weed growth, keeps moisture in the soil, and helps to maintain healthy soil temperatures. 

When should mulch be applied? Mulch can be used any time of year, but the best time is mid-spring, just as the soil warms. 

What are the different types of mulch? There are a variety of mulch materials, which consist of: 

  • Compost mulch: made from organic material, best in vegetable gardens, flower, and shrub beds.
  • Bark mulch: shredded tree bark for top dressing, mainly around trees and shrubs.
  • Sawdust mulch: milling lumber debris for vegetable/fruit gardens, flower beds, and pathways. 
  • Shredded leaf mulch: chopped leaves is extremely inexpensive as they can be found in your yard.
  • Pine needle mulch: fallen needles from pine trees work well in pathways or rose beds.
  • Grass clipping mulch: another inexpensive mulch, this is simply yard clippings collected after mowing and used for vegetables, berries, and flowers. 
  • Straw or hay mulch: inexpensive, use around strawberries and other small fruits.

** Many of these mulch types can be found in your lawn. Make sure you do not use anything from sprayed/treated lawns in edible gardens, as it is severely toxic to your health. **

Why use mulch in my garden? Mulch can introduce new flora into your garden as they decompose, which is beneficial for growth. Mulch also discourages weeds and garden pests, minimizes watering time, safeguards soil moisture, adds texture and color, improves topsoil, and adds a layer of protection against severe weather. 

How do I apply mulch to my garden? Before youlay mulch, ensure the area is already weeded. Soak the ground with water and use a barrier such as newspaper or specialized fabric to control weeds before applying mulch. Then, place a thick layer, about two- to four inches, to discourage new weed growth. Covering existing weeds with mulch will not eradicate them.

-Happy gardening!

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