How to Mulch Your Garden

Ruth D. Adamson

Mulch is the best gardening time-saver, no make a difference if you might be tending to flower beds or vegetable gardens. And whilst mulching by itself may possibly be a agony, it reaps lots of rewards: When done appropriately, mulch cuts down on the time it normally takes to h2o, weed, and combat pests. All in all, this helps make for healthier fruits, veggies, and bouquets.

For a additional fruitful garden, make positive you pick the greatest mulch for the career. Even while most mulch types will ward off pests and weeds, some cater to the demands of distinct vegetation, trees, or other crops. Just before you lay any ol’ mulch down, study on to discover the ideal type for your garden, as effectively as strategies and tricks on how to distribute it appropriately.

Distinctive Forms of Mulch for Your Back garden

There are two basic forms of mulch: natural and organic and inorganic. Organic mulches include previously residing materials this kind 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 types of mulch discourage weeds, but natural and organic mulches also boost the soil as they decompose. Inorganic mulches never split down and enrich the soil, but that will not essentially suggest they are not a intelligent possibility for your garden. Scenario in point: Black plastic, a well known type of inorganic mulch, warms the soil and radiates warmth during the night, holding warmth-loving greens like eggplant and cherry tomatoes cozy and vigorous.

Listed here are the six most frequent types of mulch to opt for in between:

Wooden Chips or Shredded Leaves

full frame view of mulch

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You can acquire bags of ornamental wood chips or shredded bark from a nearby garden heart to mulch your flower garden and shrub borders. For a considerably less expensive possibility, phone your nearby tree-treatment or utility organization to see if they have any further wood chips on hand. Or if you might be really setting up in advance, chip your Xmas tree in its place of tossing it to the curb.

If you have trees on your property, shredding the fallen leaves results in a nutrient-prosperous mulch at no additional expense. You never require a particular device either: a lawn mower with a bagger will acquire leaves and slash them into the ideal dimensions for mulching.

Spread a wood chip or shredded leaf mulch any place on your property, but it appears to be like greatest in flower beds, shrub borders, and garden pathways. Of course, it truly is correct at house in a woodland or shade garden. Maintain in head that wood chips are not a intelligent decision for vegetable and yearly flower beds, because they’re going to get in the way as you dig the beds just about every 12 months.

Grass Clippings

grass in the compost pile


Grass clippings are a further quickly readily available mulch, despite the fact that it truly is a excellent strategy to conserve a part of the clippings to use as a natural lawn fertilizer. When you have remaining grass clippings, use them as nitrogen-prosperous mulch in vegetable gardens.


wheelbarrow of compost

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Give your compost a further function: If you have further to spare, use it as mulch. It will enrich the soil and make vegetation happy, but keep in head that when any type of mulch is dry, it truly is not a hospitable area for plant roots. That suggests, you may possibly want to reserve your compost to distribute as a thin layer about vegetation and top it with a further mulch, this kind of as chopped leaves. This lets the compost to keep moist and biologically lively, supplying utmost reward for your greens, fruits, or bouquets.

Straw or Hay



If you might be planting a vegetable garden, think about covering it with straw, salt hay, or weed-no cost hay. Not only does it look clean and crisp, but this type of mulch retains soil humidity, prevents weeds, and provides natural and organic make a difference to the soil when it breaks down. Just make positive you choose for a weed and seed-no cost hay, and prevent piling it about stems of vegetable or fruit tree trunks to prevent 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 movie can do miracles. When it truly is distribute tightly in excess of a clean soil surface area, black plastic transmits the sun’s warmth to the soil beneath, producing a microclimate about a few levels warmer than an unmulched garden. Due to the fact the plastic movie remains warm and dry, it guards the fruits of vining crops this kind of as strawberries, melons, and cucumbers from rotting. And, of course, the mulch prevents weed advancement and retains soil humidity.

Infrared transmitting (IRT) plastics expense additional than typical black plastic, but they can result in even greater yields. These plastics warm the soil as effectively as crystal clear plastic, but also regulate weeds as correctly as black plastic. In raised bed gardens, lay down a sheet of plastic in excess of the complete 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 vegetation or seeds. Considering the fact that h2o can not permeate plastic, you can not count on rainwater to appropriately hydrate your vegetation. Alternatively, lay soaker hoses or drip hoses on the soil surface area just before you set down the plastic.

Be mindful not to use mulch under shrubs, primarily because plastic destroys the shrubs’ extensive-term health and fitness. Due to the fact h2o and air can’t penetrate the plastic, roots mature extremely shut to the soil surface area — in some cases correct beneath the plastic — in search of humidity and oxygen. The shallow roots go through from deficiency of oxygen and humidity, and extraordinary temperature modifications. About time, the vegetation decrease and die.

Landscape Materials

texture of non woven fabric

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Geotextiles, also termed landscape fabrics, allow air and h2o by way of to the soil beneath whilst holding weeds from coming up. But still, there are some drawbacks: When uncovered to light-weight, geotextiles degrade in excess of time. To make them previous longer, deal with them with a 2nd mulch (they are unsightly, so you’d want to, anyway).

Comparable to plastic mulch, keep geotextiles away from shrubs. Shrub roots and weeds mature up into the landscape fabric, which suggests you’ll have to rip the landscape fabric on their elimination.

How to Mulch Effectively

There are two cardinal regulations for applying mulch to beat weeds. 1st, lay the mulch down on soil that is by now weeded, and 2nd, lay down a thick-adequate layer to discourage new weeds from coming up by way of it.

A four-inch layer of mulch will discourage weeds, despite the fact that a two-inch layer is usually adequate in shady spots. If you know that a garden bed is crammed with weed seeds or perennial roots, try a double-mulching procedure to prevent a weed explosion. To do so, established vegetation in area, h2o them effectively, distribute newspaper, and top it with mulch.

Mulches that also retains humidity (like wood chips) can gradual soil warming. In spring, pull mulch away from perennials and bulbs for faster advancement. A moist mulch piled versus the stems of bouquets and greens can cause them to rot keep mulch about just one inch away from crowns and stems.

Mulch piled up versus woody stems of shrubs and trees can also cause rot and encourages rodents (this kind of as voles and mice) to nest there. Maintain deep mulch pulled back again about six to 12 inches from trunks.

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