Gardeners have many options when it comes to mulching materials for your yard and garden. Your choice of landscape mulching materials depends on whether you are looking for an attractive, low-maintenance surface, which can be provided by aggregates or bark, or whether your priority is to fertilize and improve the soil.
Why Mulch Your Landscape?
The chief reasons for applying mulches are to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Spread organic mulches-including well-rotted manure, homemade kitchen compost and leaf-mold, spent mushroom compost, composted seaweed, cocoa shells, and chipped bark-directly onto the soil, leaving gaps around woody stems. They supply valuable plant nutrients and preserve moisture. Bark uses up small amounts of nitrogen during decomposition, so apply after a surface dressing of fertilizer, especially when mulching a newly planted border. Aggregates are usually laid over landscape membrane to prevent weed growth; as a pot mulch, they help prevent soil erosion.
Rounded pebbles and cobbles contrast beautifully with flat surfaces like paving and gravel. Try grading different sizes of pebbles and add boulders to create naturalistic stream, bank or beach effects.
Gravel as Mulch
River stone and water-worn gravel has a more natural look than sharp-edged stone chips. The various grades and colors can be used can be used to mulch around dry garden plants, grasses, and Mediterranean-style plantings.
Bark Chip Mulch
Bark Chip is an easy-to-apply, weed-free product that comes in different grades. The coarser forms take longer to break down, so they last longer before needing to be topped off, but they are not as ornamental. The bark can be from hardwoods, cedars,hemlock, or pines. Many gardeners use bark to winterize rose bushes and other shrubs against extreme cold winters.
Aggregates include stone chips, slate waste, recycled glass, and acrylic chips. Bright synthetic aggregates make striking low-maintenance surfaces for contemporary gardens and mulches for modern planters.
Cocoa Shell Mulch
This cocoa by-product can be applied to a depth of 2 inches, leaving a small gap around the necks of the plants. Water it thoroughly afterward to bind the mix and create a moisture-retentive crust. Cocoa mulch is made from the cacao shells, which contain the substance theobromine. Caution: coca shells can be lethal to dogs and cats and may not be the mulch of choice for some homeowners.
Well-rotted Manure and Leaf-mold Mulch
In early spring, apply well-rotted manure or leafmold, 3 inches deep, to enrich the soil and seal in moisture. Make leaf-mold by packing punctured garbage bags with fall leaves; leave for 2-3 years to get maximum return.
Home Compost Mulch
Compost made from vegetable and fruit scraps, grass clippings, and annual weeds, as well as layers of cardboard and newspaper, is an excellent mulch, which both feeds the soil and locks in moisture. Many homeowners enjoy making their own compost. It is a rich source of nutrients that is cost efficient and only requires a little time to maintain your compost pile throughout the year.