How to Choose the Best Mulch for Your Garden

Not sure what type of mulch will suit you and your yard best? No worries! Just read the article and get proper guidelines about choosing the best mulch for your garden!

Mulching your garden soil is one of the most crucial gardening chores since it pays off by imparting several advantages. These advantages range from enhancing the overall fertility of the soil to increasing the aesthetics and visuals of your garden.

A single layer of mulch not only locks the moisture and nutrients with the soil but also acts as an insulator by protecting your plants’ roots from weather extremities. And if you are living in an arid and hot region, the mulch will save your plants from getting water-deficient by decreasing the rate of evaporation. The cherry on the top is that the mulch particles suppress the sprouting of weeds.

Fortunately, a huge number of mulch options are available to purchase, from natural to synthetic; organic to inorganic. However, we cannot say that all types of mulches will do what is required. Thus, to choose the best mulch for your garden, you need to consider some factors including the mulch types, colour, yard condition, longevity, etc.

How to Choose the Best Mulch for Your Garden

Which type of mulch suits you best?

 Yard waste – best to improve soil quality 

The most common type of mulch is that which we obtained from organic sources. It includes bark chips, leaves, grass clippings, straws, and pine needles. This type is further divided into categories; aged and fresh organic mulches.

Fresh mulches are the freshly seized bark chips and wood chunks and these are mainly used to stop soil erosion and nutrient depletion. If your garden is present on a sloped surface or hilly area, you better use such fresh mulch material to keep the soil content in place.

On the other hand, aged mulches are used to improve soil quality. It includes decaying bark chips and wooden chunks, falling foliage, and grass clippings. Since the process of decomposition has already begun in these aged organic materials, they will break down quickly and become a part of the soil to boost its overall nutrient content. Thus, using such types of mulches means you are aiming for two birds with one stone; preventing water loss and enriching the soil.

The best part is that the organic mulches are available in a wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes so you can surely get one precisely according to your yard needs. Also, since no labour force is involved in its manufacturing, they are extremely inexpensive and you can buy them in bulk.

If you are looking for the best mulch to get rid of basic landscape problems, get the mulch containing cedar, pine needles, and cypress. Cedar will keep the insects and bugs away from your garden, pine needles will impart a natural texture and stay in place for longer times whereas the cypress will tackle other problems like water seeping by absorbing and holding the water.

 Yard waste – best to improve soil quality
 Vermicompost – best for vegetable and flower gardens 

You could find most of the mulching material in your backyard but if that’s not sufficient to cover the entire land, you can use the compost. Establish a worm farm in a non-transparent waste bind wherein you can dispose of food scraps and shredded, non-shiny papers.

In this way, the composting worms in the composting system will break down the waste and convert them into vermicompost, also called black gold, and worm tea. Both the products are highly rich in nutrients and act as enriched, slow-releasing fertilisers for your vegetable and flower garden.

Also, the compost will insulate the delicate roots of small plants and save them from frost and foot traffic. However, you should not use the compost as mulch or fertiliser if you are living in a very hot region and have sensitive seedlings in your garden. Overfeeding such garden beds with compost may burn the roots.

Vermicompost – best for vegetable and flower gardens
 Crushed stones – best for high-wind areas  

Crushed stones can also be used as mulch however since the stones are not supposed to decay, you cannot expect them to improve your soil quality. The only goal of using crushed stones as mulch is to make your garden look more appealing and tidy.

Stones, being heavy, prevent the soil content from floating away with heavy wind and rainfall. They also keep the weeds from sprouting out of the land but you should be sure not to place them where you’ve buried seeds. The best place to use stones as mulch is around the established trees and sturdy, woody plants. Also, avoid using them around delicate vegetation like in flower beds and vegetable gardens.

Besides suppressing weed growth and keeping the yard well-maintained, the stones also lock in the moisture and regulate the temperature. As stated before, stones don’t decay so you don’t need to replace them with fresh layers every new season.

All you have to do is wash the dirt off of the stones to make them look vibrant. Some vendors are even selling coloured pebbles and you can get them in specific colours as per your garden theme.

 Polymer – best for agriculture fields  

This mulching option is best for all the agricultural fields and large-size gardens wherein spreading the fine layer of mulch in bulk is not possible. Plastic mulch comes in the form of slit-containing plastic sheets. The plants pass through the slit while every other thing remains beneath the sheet.

In this way, since all the land is completely covered by the plastic sheet, the weeds find no way to come out. Also, the plastic material prevents water loss through evaporation and keeps the fertiliser and other soil-borne nutrients in place.

Since plastic is not biodegradable, we cannot call it an eco-friendly mulching option. Also, the sheet is quite expensive but if you recycle it, instead of bringing a new sheet every year, the investment will serve you for a long time.

Another polymer-based mulch is the rubber one which is formed by shredding the tires. This mulch material also doesn’t improve soil quality but is best to preserve moisture and insulation purposes.

However, you better not use such a rubber mulch in your vegetable or flower garden since there, it could act as a hindering agent. The best places to use rubber mulches are around trees, shrubs, sidewalks, and play areas.

 Polymer – best for agriculture fields

Coloured or uncoloured mulch, which one is better?

Many homeowners think that coloured or dyed mulches are not safe to use or house toxic colouring chemicals in them. However, it’s not always true. Some vendors offer coloured mulches which are dyed in food colours or vegetable extracts to keep them 100% healthy and toxins-free.

Moreover, coloured mulch like red or black mulch also enhances the curb appeal of your landscape and gives you a chance to give a touch of creativity. No doubt that such safe-dyed mulch loses its colour over time, but still, it would contribute to making your garden look like your dream place for an extended period.

After six months or a year, the dye will fade away or wash out completely and the mulch will begin to look like soil or grey chunks. Thus, that would be the time when you’ll need to replace it with a fresh layer of mulch. On the other hand, if visuals or the creative side is not a thing of your interest, you better save a few pennies by going with regular mulch.

Another thing that is worth mentioning here is that the dyed mulches are not confined to natural or organic mulches. Instead, you can also get inorganic mulch material in various colours and shapes, in a prepackaged form.

Coloured or uncoloured mulch, which one is better?

Bagged or bulk mulch; which one is better?

Both types of mulches are equally beneficial and you can choose the one as per your needs and available resources. Speaking of convenience, bagged mulch is better since you don’t need to get a truck or carriage to haul the mulch to your garden.

You can easily place the baggage in the backseat of your car or drag it in your yard using a wheelbarrow. Also, while having bagged mulch, you don’t have to adopt other ways to store the mulch appropriately to use later. Since it’s already in a bag, just close the opening end by stapling pins there and leaving it in your garage.

On the other hand, if you prefer quality over convenience then bulk mulch is your go-to option. Due to being supplied in bulk, it doesn’t have to pass through the phases of processing and packaging and is offered to purchase right after collecting it. Whereas, the bagged mulch has usually passed the time of 3-6 months when it comes to market to sell.

Due to low or no labour work, you also don’t have to pay extra and can get a fine amount of mulch at a much lower price. The only problem is, you need to get a pickup truck on rent to bring your bulk mulch at home and get a high-grade storage bin to preserve the leftovers for future use. Whatever the type of mulch you purchase, always make sure it’s clean and free of debris, chemicals, and toxic lead paints.

Bagged or bulk mulch; which one is better?
mulching garden conifer bed with pine tree bark mulch