Mulch Types and their Uses

Mulch helps preserve soil in a number of ways. Not only can mulch moderate the temperature in the root zone, but it can also suppress weeds, conserve moisture, and break down soil nutrients. When choosing whether to use organic or inorganic mulch, keep in mind that only natural materials will break down and add to the soil.

Mulch Uses

Mulch is commonly used for landscape purposes; however, it can also be used in vegetable gardens. Using black plastic mulch can suppress weeds and raise the soil temperatures. This is especially beneficial for vegetables that grow well with relatively hot soil like tomatoes and peppers. In addition to being used in landscapes and gardens, mulch can prevent playgrounds from becoming mud pits. It also helps to cushion accidental falls when kids jump off swing sets.

Types of Mulch

Organic Mulch

  • Wood bark: This is one of the most popular organic mulches because it can improve the appearance of an unkempt lawn. However, wood bark mulch may require additional fertilizing as the soil microbes tie up the nitrogen in the soil, breaking down the wood chips. You can purchase many different types of wood bark, including cedar, hardwood, and pin nuggets.
  • Grass clippings: This type of mulch is ideal for garden because once it decomposes, it transforms into a natural fertilizer. Refrain from using grass clippings from a lawn that's experienced weed or pest problems.
  • Straw: Using straw mulch is best for vegetable gardens. Make sure that you're buying straw, not hay. This is because hay possesses harmful weeds. Since straw can be easily blown away, you may not want to use this type of mulch if you live in an area that suffers from high winds.
  • Compost: Similar to wood bark, compost is used to help beautify a lawn. It's also a rich source of soil nutrients. Unlike other mulches, compost will always improve soil quality. When using compost, be mindful not to apply too much at one time.
  • Rocks: These are usually used in conjunction with weed or landscape fabric. This type of mulch looks most natural in an area where rocks are a part of the landscape. In fact, it's sometimes used in a place of a lawn.

Inorganic Mulch

  • Plastic: Black plastic is normally used in vegetable gardens because it prevents weeds from sprouting and warms up the soil. Although this inorganic mulch is well suited for vegetable gardens, it's not useful for landscapes.
  • Landscape Fabric: This type of mulch is usually used in larger landscape beds; however, it's only practical to use if you don't anticipate growing new plants. This mulch is only temporarily effective because leaves and soil will pile up on top of it, failing to stop weeds from sprouting. Since using landscape fabric results in more of a problem than a solution, it's not recommended.

Mulch Tips

It's important to select a type of mulch that will naturally blend with the surroundings. Also, to prevent weeds from sprouting, use a pre-emergent herbicide. When applying mulch, refrain from piling it around plant stems. You'll then want to slightly pull the mulch away from the plants. If you're undecided about what type of mulch to use, you may want to consult an experienced lawn care company.

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