Reduce moisture loss and weed growth in your garden
Applying mulch is one of the best things you can do for your flower and plant beds, trees and vegetable garden. Mulch is a layer of organic or inorganic material that is spread out on top of the soil to protect against erosion and conserve moisture. Both organic and inorganic mulches have many benefits, although organic mulch actually enriches the soil. Mulch helps plants maintain a more even soil temperature and prevents weed growth to reduce garden maintenance. In addition, mulch gives your garden beds a neat, landscaped appearance. Before you buy mulch, consider the following questions:
How much garden soil / mulch do I need?
Garden soils and mulches should be applied at a 3" depth. Therefore, six 1 cubic foot bags will cover 24 square feet.
Organic Mulch, Inorganic Mulch and Application
There are two basic types of mulch, organic and inorganic. Both act as ground cover and offer the benefits of insulating and retaining soil. Organic mulches break down after a season or two and need to be reapplied. In this way, they actually enhance the soil by adding organic material. Inorganic mulches are more permanent, but they do not improve the soil structure. Other types of mulch vary according to their appearance and longevity. Before you add mulch to your garden, you'll want to take a few minutes to learn about how much you should apply, both for the benefit of your plants and to prevent yourself from buying too much or too little material.
Organic Mulch: Many organic mulch materials can be found in your own yard, such as grass clippings, leaves and pine needles. Newspaper is excellent mulch for vegetable gardens, as it keeps weed growth down and protects low-hanging vegetables. Composted manure is also excellent for vegetable gardens but will not work for front yard gardens for obvious reasons. Hay and straw work well, especially when you need mulch that is light and airy, such as a lawn cover after applying grass seed. There are also several attractive wood mulches that can be purchased.
Inorganic Mulch: Inorganic mulch includes stone, landscape fabric and plastic. Though these materials are not as beneficial to the soil as organic mulch, they last much longer. Black plastic does not work well in landscaping but may be useful in a vegetable garden. Landscape fabric is applied to the surface of soil before planting and is porous so it allows water in but keeps weeds out. Stone is used on paths, around walkways and around permanent plantings, such as shrubs and trees. Stone does not work well for vegetable or flower gardens.
Application: To learn more about how to apply different types of mulch for maximum effectiveness, consult the following chart.
|Mulch Type||Application Tips|
Black Plastic: Black polyethylene plastic is effective at preventing weed growth, though it tends to hold water in the soil. Some black plastic is sold with tiny holes to facilitate drainage. Exposed to sun, black plastic can degrade and lose it effectiveness, which is why some gardeners bury it in the soil. Black plastic acts as a good underlayment for organic or rock mulches.
Decorative Rock: There are many shapes, colors and types of decorative rock that can be used as mulch, including pea gravel, pebbles, crushed stone, river rock and more. Stones used for mulch are usually smaller and are well suited for foundation plants. Decorative rock provides excellent weed control and does not need to be replaced unless the layers settle after a few years.
Landscape Fabric: Landscape fabric is sold in a range of widths and lengths and is specially treated to resist rotting. Unlike plastic, landscape fabric is porous and allows water, air and nutrients to pass through. Weeds sometimes poke through, but overall, fabric is effective at weed control. Better weed control can be achieved by adding more mulch on top of the fabric. Many gardeners add decorative wood or stone mulch on top of fabric to enhance its appearance. Landscape fabric works best for shrubs and nonspreading plants.
Pine Bark: Pine bark is usually dark in color and lends an attractive, woodsy look to your garden areas. Various particle sizes are available, from shredded bits to chips and nuggets. The only downside to pine is that it can float and therefore dislodge after heavy rain so it works best on nonsloping areas. Also, pine mulch may sometimes harbor insects, such as termites.
Pine Needles: Pine needles are attractive, especially for wooded lots. This type of natural mulch works well for acid-loving shrubs, trees and plants, such as azaleas, camellias and rhododendron, and allows water to flow through easily. Pine needles can be hard to find, though, and may not be available in all parts of the United States.
Rubber Mulch: Rubber mulch eliminates the need for annual mulching. This type of mulch is usually offered in natural-looking colors, such as redwood. Rubber mulch is very effective at weed control and is heavier than wood mulch so it won't float away. Rubber mulch is often used in playgrounds because it is softer than some of the natural materials and has more give.
Shredded Hardwood Mulch: Shredded hardwood mulch works well at keeping down weed growth and does not wash away easily. Shredded hardwood lasts longer than other wood mulch and is very attractive.
Don’t strain your back carrying heavy bags of mulch around the yard. The Home Depot carries a variety of wheelbarrow models so you can choose one that is just right for your gardening and landscaping needs.