How to Mulch Your Garden

Kennith Bogan

Mulch is the final gardening time-saver, no issue if you might be tending to flower beds or vegetable gardens. And when mulching alone may possibly be a pain, it reaps numerous benefits: When accomplished appropriately, mulch cuts down on the time it takes to h2o, weed, and fight pests. All in all, this makes for healthier fruits, veggies, and bouquets.

For a extra fruitful garden, make guaranteed you decide the ideal mulch for the job. Even although most mulch forms will ward off pests and weeds, some cater to the wants of specific crops, trees, or other crops. Right before you lay any ol’ mulch down, read on to locate the great form for your garden, as very well as suggestions and tips on how to distribute it appropriately.

Unique Sorts of Mulch for Your Yard

There are two simple forms of mulch: natural and organic and inorganic. Organic and natural mulches include previously living material these types of as chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, shredded bark, sawdust, pine needles, and even paper. Inorganic mulches include black plastic and geotextiles (landscape fabrics).

Both of those forms of mulch discourage weeds, but natural and organic mulches also enhance the soil as they decompose. Inorganic mulches do not split down and enrich the soil, but that won’t automatically mean they’re not a good solution for your garden. Situation in level: Black plastic, a common kind of inorganic mulch, warms the soil and radiates warmth for the duration of the night, trying to keep warmth-loving vegetables like eggplant and cherry tomatoes cozy and vigorous.

In this article are the 6 most popular forms of mulch to opt for concerning:

Wood Chips or Shredded Leaves

full frame view of mulch

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You can obtain bags of decorative wood chips or shredded bark from a nearby garden center to mulch your flower garden and shrub borders. For a significantly less expensive solution, phone your nearby tree-care or utility corporation to see if they have any extra wood chips on hand. Or if you might be actually arranging forward, chip your Xmas tree rather of tossing it to the curb.

If you have trees on your assets, shredding the fallen leaves results in a nutrient-loaded mulch at no additional charge. You do not want a distinctive device possibly: a garden mower with a bagger will collect leaves and slice them into the great measurement for mulching.

Unfold a wood chip or shredded leaf mulch any place on your assets, but it seems to be ideal in flower beds, shrub borders, and garden pathways. Of study course, it is really ideal at dwelling in a woodland or shade garden. Hold in intellect that wood chips usually are not a good choice for vegetable and annual flower beds, since they will get in the way as you dig the beds each and every 12 months.

Grass Clippings

grass in the compost pile


Grass clippings are an additional quickly readily available mulch, even though it is really a superior strategy to help save a part of the clippings to use as a organic garden fertilizer. When you have remaining grass clippings, use them as nitrogen-loaded mulch in vegetable gardens.


wheelbarrow of compost

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Give your compost an additional objective: If you have extra to spare, use it as mulch. It will enrich the soil and make crops joyful, but keep in intellect that when any kind of mulch is dry, it is really not a hospitable spot for plant roots. That implies, you may possibly want to reserve your compost to unfold as a thin layer around crops and best it with an additional mulch, these types of as chopped leaves. This permits the compost to keep moist and biologically lively, giving greatest profit for your vegetables, fruits, or bouquets.

Straw or Hay



If you might be planting a vegetable garden, think about covering it with straw, salt hay, or weed-free hay. Not only does it glance clean up and crisp, but this form of mulch retains soil moisture, prevents weeds, and adds natural and organic issue to the soil when it breaks down. Just make guaranteed you opt for a weed and seed-free hay, and prevent piling it around stems of vegetable or fruit tree trunks to protect against slug and rodent problems.

Plastic Mulch

green pepper plant growing through a hole in black plastic mulch

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Mulching a vegetable garden with sheets of black plastic film can do wonders. When it is really unfold tightly in excess of a clean soil floor, black plastic transmits the sun’s warmth to the soil beneath, generating a microclimate about three levels hotter than an unmulched garden. Mainly because the plastic film continues to be warm and dry, it shields the fruits of vining crops these types of as strawberries, melons, and cucumbers from rotting. And, of study course, the mulch prevents weed progress and retains soil moisture.

Infrared transmitting (IRT) plastics charge extra than conventional black plastic, but they can result in even higher yields. These plastics warm the soil as very well as very clear plastic, but also control weeds as proficiently as black plastic. In lifted bed gardens, lay down a sheet of plastic in excess of the entire bed. Bury it at the edges or weigh the plastic down with rocks. Then punch holes in it with a bulb planter, and fill with crops or seeds. Considering that h2o cannot permeate plastic, you cannot rely on rainwater to appropriately hydrate your crops. Rather, lay soaker hoses or drip hoses on the soil floor ahead of you place down the plastic.

Be cautious not to use mulch beneath shrubs, specially since plastic destroys the shrubs’ long-phrase wellness. Mainly because h2o and air can not penetrate the plastic, roots mature pretty shut to the soil floor — from time to time ideal beneath the plastic — seeking moisture and oxygen. The shallow roots undergo from deficiency of oxygen and moisture, and serious temperature variations. Around time, the crops decline and die.

Landscape Materials

texture of non woven fabric

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Geotextiles, also identified as landscape fabrics, allow air and h2o through to the soil beneath when trying to keep weeds from coming up. But nevertheless, there are some drawbacks: When exposed to mild, geotextiles degrade in excess of time. To make them previous lengthier, go over them with a second mulch (they’re unsightly, so you’d want to, anyway).

Equivalent to plastic mulch, keep geotextiles absent from shrubs. Shrub roots and weeds mature up into the landscape fabric, which implies you can expect to have to rip the landscape fabric upon their removal.

How to Mulch Thoroughly

There are two cardinal regulations for using mulch to beat weeds. Very first, lay the mulch down on soil that is by now weeded, and second, lay down a thick-ample layer to discourage new weeds from coming up through it.

A 4-inch layer of mulch will discourage weeds, even though a two-inch layer is typically ample in shady spots. If you know that a garden bed is stuffed with weed seeds or perennial roots, attempt a double-mulching strategy to protect against a weed explosion. To do so, established crops in spot, h2o them very well, unfold newspaper, and best it with mulch.

Mulches that also retains moisture (like wood chips) can slow soil warming. In spring, pull mulch absent from perennials and bulbs for quicker progress. A soaked mulch piled versus the stems of bouquets and vegetables can lead to them to rot keep mulch about one inch absent from crowns and stems.

Mulch piled up versus woody stems of shrubs and trees can also lead to rot and encourages rodents (these types of as voles and mice) to nest there. Hold deep mulch pulled back about 6 to twelve inches from trunks.

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