Types of Mulch – Which is Best for Your Yard?

Bushes in garden

A healthy garden is a beautiful garden. So make sure your plants are always stunning and luscious by keeping them healthy. One way to do so is by spreading mulch over the soil of your garden.

But what type of mulch should you use? Read on to find out!


Benefits of Mulch


Before we go into the specifics of mulch, let us first discuss the basics. 

Why do you need mulch?

Let’s dive in!

Mulch actually offers a lot of benifits, mostly leading to making your plants healthier. 

Mulch is a material that you spread over the soil. 

What for?

First, in order to keep the moisture in the soil. The reason why you regularly water the plants is because evaporation keeps the soil dry. 

So you water the plants regularly. With extra help from the mulch, the moisture will be preserved in the soil to keep it from drying up. 

Lady gardening

This way

You reduce evaporation and conserve moisture. 

As a result of this, you also keep the soil cool. 

Here’s another thing!

Mulch prevents the growth of weed. This undesirable plant will compete with your garden plants in terms of getting benefits.

If you have weed surrounding your plants or trees, it will compete in terms of direct sunlight, water, soil nutrients and even space. 

This means

That less water and nutrients will go to your plants and trees because a percentage of these have been consumed by the weed. Plus, the more weed grows, the less space for your plant to enjoy. 

How does this happen?

Since the mulch basically covers the soil, it will prevent the weed from getting sunlight that would help its growth. 

More importantly, the mulch will prevent the weed from “taking root” in the first place. 

Let’s elaborate

By covering the soil, the mulch also stymies possible landing of weed seed into the soil, hence, barring any kind of growth. 

Similarly

You don’t want any kind of weed in your garden or lawn because it is unpleasant to look at. 

Plus

Here’s another reason why you want mulch: it can provide nutrients to your soil, which helps keep your plants healthy. 

However, this benefit is exclusive to organic mulches. 

This then leads us to the next topic: the types of mulch.

Note:

There are two major types of mulch: organic and inorganic. 


Organic Mulch


This is the type of mulch derived from living matter or those that were once living matter.

It’s called organic because it decomposes over time. Organic refers to natural or the lack of artificial means. 

Here are the most common types of organic mulch:

Wood chips

These are shredded parts of a tree limb, branches or twigs. 

Wood chips are available in agriculture stores or garden centers. But if you have trees in your backyard, then you can create your own wood chips.

How?

With a lot of help from a wood chip shredder.

What is a wood chipper shredder? It is a machine that reduces wood into chips. 

Find out more about wood chipper shredders here.

Man using wood chipper shredder

So here’s the deal

Wood chips are good mulch materials for shrub beds and the area surrounding trees. They are not advisable on flower and vegetable beds. 

Using wood chips means you don’t have to worry about replacement anytime soon because they don’t break down easily. 

You’re in luck!

When wood chips do break down, they will slowly provide nutrients to the soil, which will then trickle down to the roots of the shrub or trees. 

For optimization

Apply the mulch as wood chips at a depth of four to six inches. It will take a few weeks for it to settle. 

Remember:

Spread the wood chips around the trees and not on them. Form a donut around the tree using the mulch so that not a single one touches the bark of the tree.

Diseases might develop during contact due to the moisture present on tree trunks. 

Any potential problems?

There are concerns that diseases of the wood used as wood chips may transfer to the tree it is used as mulch for. 

According to experts, this is highly unlikely. But if there are concerns about this, this is why you don’t let the wood chips touch the bark of the tree. 

Think about this:

Mulch is applied on the soil and not on a tree or plant. 

Here’s an advice:

Since wood chips tend to have different colors, especially if they are sourced from different trees, dye the color so that it will look really neat on the shrub bed or around your trees. 

Shredded leaves

If you have trees and plants in your yard, then it’s perfect! While you clean your yard, you can use the leaves as mulch. 

Wood chipper shredders and lawn mowers have the capability to process leaves into mulch. 

It really is that simple

This type of mulch would be great for flower gardens or vegetable gardens. They can also work on shrubs, around trees and even in potted plants. 

Basically

Mulch made from leaves can be used in whatever plant you are caring for. 

Shredded leaves can be applied to the beds at two to three inches of depth. Don’t let it touch any part of the body of the plant. 

As earlier mentioned

Mulch is for the soil, not for the actual plant. Although, the plant will eventually benefit from it. 

By the way

If you have an extra supply of leaves, you can use them in preparing a compost to be used as fertilizer. 

Grass clippings

If you have a grass lawn, then it’s just a perfect way to complement your garden. Grass clippings can make great mulch. 

Grass

Incidentally, the grass clippings would be a great mulch for the lawn. 

Grass clippings as mulch provides nitrogen, which is needed by the lawn. 

Also

The mulch adds phosphorus to the lawn to make it healthier. 

And potassium, too. This makes the grass thicker and stronger. 

So

If you have a large lawn, then grass clippings would be a great component for a mulch. 

The mulch could be used in the lawn and extra ones could be placed in the garden. 

The downside

If you have weed growing in your lawn, then chances are you would be clipping them too when you mow the grass. 

This means you might be spreading weed back to the lawn when you spread your mulch. 

Compost

Compost is generally utilized as a fertilizer. You mix it with your soil to ensure that you have a good and healthy soil to support plants. 

But if you have extra compost, you can use this as mulch. 

The effect?

Since it is already a healthy component, it can only be good for your soil. 

Use only a thin layer of compost to your garden. In order to maximize its effects, it would be a good idea to top this with another thin layer of shredded leaves. 

Straw

Mulch made from straw would be good for the vegetable garden. 

Since it’s a vegetable garden, it is expected to have rows of the plants. Place the straw mulch in between rows with a layer that reaches three to six inches. 

When the layer is reduced, add another level of straw. The material decomposes quite quickly. 

Take note:

Make sure the straw doesn’t touch the leaves and stems of the vegetable plants to prevent fungus from growing. 

Wheelbarrow with straw in it

Inorganic Mulch


Also known as non-organic, this type of mulch is produced from synthetic materials or those that have never been “living.” As opposed to its counterpart, this type of mulch doesn’t break down. 

Here are the types of inorganic mulch:

Rocks

Rocks are the most popular inorganic mulch. One reason for that is because it can really elevate the look of the garden.

A lot of people use rock or gravel for the flower garden or landscape beds. 

It’s simple

But the effect is just gorgeous!

This is probably the most important reason for using rock mulch: aesthetics. 

The trick is:

The more beautiful the rocks are, the more beautiful the landscape will look like.

Of course, decorative rocks are not going to be cheap. 

But it’s worth it

Especially if your purpose for growing plants is aesthetics. If you want a beautiful yard or garden, then elevate it with the rock mulch. 

Of course

Just like other forms of mulch, it also suppresses weed. 

Although, rocks may absorb the heat from the sun and may cause the soil to dry out. 

This means

You can only use rock mulch on drought-resistant plants. Also, make sure the rocks don’t directly touch the stem of the plant. 

Plastic sheeting

This is very effective in preventing weed from growing. But it may not look as attractive. 

It’s just a sheet of plastic after all. 

However

It’s quite difficult for air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil. It also doesn’t leave enough space for the soil to breathe. 

While it could work on some plants, you probably shouldn’t use this on shrubs and trees with large roots. 

Landscape fabric

It works much like the plastic sheeting because it covers the soil the same way. But unlike the plastic, the fabric allows the air and water to penetrate the soil.

Just be careful because the fabric could easily rip. 

On the other hand

A landscape fabric isn’t attractive, but it isn’t unattractive either. It’s just neutral. 

Rubber

Most people use old tires for the rubber mulch. It can prevent weed from sprouting and it can retain soil moisture. 

A rubber will decompose for 50 to 80 years. So if you could recycle rubber and use it as mulch, then at least you could help reduce waste. 

Rubber tires

Which Mulch Works Better?


Generally, anything natural is always better. But it’s your garden, so it’s your choice! 

Your choice hinges on a few factors: 

  1. Cost
  2. Maintenance
  3. Aesthetics

Let’s discuss: 

When it comes to cost, inorganic mulch is generally cheaper because you don’t have to replace it as much as you have to with the organic one. 

Organic mulch decomposes eventually, so you have to replace it. 

However

If you have your own compost, then you might be able to save on expense for the mulch. Then you wouldn’t need to worry about recurring costs. 

Choosing inorganic mulch means one-time cost. 

Likewise

Maintenance works the same way. You would need more maintenance when it comes to organic mulch. 

But it is generally better for your soil and plants. 

Couple gardening

Then

As far as aesthetics is concerned, you actually have control over that. By applying colors on the mulch, it can help your garden look more polished. 

When it is colored, it will fade over a period of time, so you also have to regularly refresh it. 

Finally

Both organic and inorganic mulch can help prevent weed from cropping up, retain soil moisture, and protect plants during winter. 

However, only the organic mulch can actually add nutrients to the soil to help plants grow healthy. 


Summary


Initially, inorganic mulch may cost you more, especially if you don’t have the means to get the materials for free. However, in the long run, it would come out to be more inexpensive because you don’t have to regularly replenish them. 

At the same time, you cannot deny the natural benefits you can get from organic mulch. There are different kinds of mulch with one working better than the other on a certain kind of plant or trees. 

It is therefore important that you are well-versed in the topic of mulches so you know which type will work best for your garden or yard. 

Whatever kind of mulch you end up choosing, you have to know that you are helping the world reduce waste by utilizing waste and debris that would have reached landfills. Mulch is good for your soil and plants, and it is also good for the environment. 


You Might Also Like


You already know that wood chips can be used as mulch. Find out more about its benefits.

If you have a small yard, an electric chipper shredder can help you make wood chips. If you want an affordable and safe machine, you might prefer the Power Smart PS10. Or maybe the Sun Joe Chipper CJ601E may be more to your preference.

For larger yards, though, you should check out gasoline-powered wood chipper shredders. There is the reasonably priced Tazz K33 Chipper Shredder and the great-performing Yardmax YW7565!

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