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Pick the Right Mulch for the Job
by Julie Bawden-Davis
Mulch provides a variety of benefits to your garden. In addition to conserving moisture, it protects soil microorganisms that increase the disease resistance of your plants and help control weed growth. Landscaping and garden mulch also breaks down over time, adding nutrients to the soil, and mulch makes the garden more attractive.
Familiarizing yourself with the following organic garden and landscaping mulches will help you pick the right mulch for the job.
Chipped or shredded bark is a decorative addition to the garden that decomposes slowly, which means it requires infrequent replacement. Use bark mulch around trees and in beds containing trees and shrubs.
Readily available from the outdoors or purchased bagged as leaf mold, decomposed leaves break down fairly quickly, adding nutrients to the soil and breaking up heavy clay. Use decomposed leaf mulch around perennial plants and in flower beds where it can be turned in to feed the soil when you cultivate between seasons.
A product of peat bogs, peat moss is a mulch alternative that acidifies the soil. Use peat moss around acid-loving plants—such as blueberry, azalea, rhododendron and camellia—to improve their health.
Dark, rich compost makes an attractive mulch for the garden and does double duty by adding a wide variety of nutrients to the soil and improving soil structure. Because it’s nutrient-rich, compost is an excellent addition to the vegetable garden, where it will work its way into the soil as the season progresses.
Composed of worm excrement, worm castings are rich in micronutrients and act as a natural slow-release fertilizer for the soil. This mulch option is appropriate for all areas of the garden, including the vegetable garden and flower beds. It does especially well when applied on top of the soil and then covered with bark mulch.