A Quick Glance at the Types of Mulch You Can Use for Your Garden

Types of Mulch
Mulching can make a huge difference to the health of your plants. Consider the different types of mulch available before you decide which one is best for your garden.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Feb 26, 2018
There are certain organic and inorganic materials called mulch which are used to coat the soil in ones garden. The practice of laying down this layer is called mulching, and is done with the primary objective of protecting the soil. Other benefits of mulching include lesser pressure on the soil during heavy rains and better moisture retention during the summer months. A big benefit is that it prevents weeds from growing and provides a neat, well kept look to the lawn.

There are 2 categories of mulch: organic and inorganic. The many types of mulches available fall into one of these 2 categories. Organic mulches, as the name suggests, are substances that come from the plant world and that decompose over time. As they decompose, they release nutrients into the soil. They increase the soil's capacity to retain water, making it more absorbent and porous, which aids roots growth. Organic mulches include garden compost, bark, bark chips, leaf mold, grass clippings, straw, and hay.

Inorganic mulch provides protection to the top soil layer, and adds beauty to the garden. We can use more than one inorganic mulch while landscaping the garden. While these materials have the advantage of being long-lasting, once laid, they restrict access to the soil, making it difficult to add any matter to it.

Types of Organic Mulch:

Leaves

Leaves are the most popular and freely available option. When the trees in your garden shed their leaves during the fall, collect them. If they are whole, cut them up using a lawnmower or shredder. When the leaves decompose, they give the soil an absorbent porous structure. Dry leaves are used as a winter coverage to shield plants from freezing. They are usually removed when spring arrives.

Grass Clippings

Called grass or lawn clipping, they can be collected when you mow your lawn. For those who feel that they appear unaesthetic, they can be put to use in a vegetable garden, where their appearance will not be a concern. Some people mix in tree leaves or rough compost to prevent them from getting compressed into a mat. This prevents smelly putrefaction during decomposition. They must be utilized immediately or dried thoroughly to avoid rotting and excessive heat generation. They are great to work with as they spread easily around even small plants because of their fine texture. Fresh green grass clippings are high in nitrate content, and when used as mulch enrich the soil with it.

Peat Moss

Peat moss or sphagnum peat is a good option due to its longevity and convenience. It lowers the pH level of the soil surface, and is thus useful for acid-loving plants such as rhododendrons and blueberries.

Bark Chips

Bark chips and composted bark mulch is a type of mulch that provide a beautiful finish to the garden. It takes longer to decompose than grass or leaves, and may last for between 1-3 years based on the size of the chips. There are different chip sizes available, and the smaller chips are easier to spread around. They are perfect to be used around trees, shrubs, and perennial gardens. Spread the mulch an inch or two away from the trunk of a tree.

Wood Chips

If you use wood chips, use at least 2-4 inches of it. If you use fresh wood chips, they are most beneficial when mixed with a lot of leaves. Make enquirers to find out if wood chips collected from the removal of street trees are being made available free to residents. Similar to bark chips, they are used most often under trees and shrubs. They are also frequently used to mulch trails because of their easy availability and low cost.

Straw Mulch or Field or Salt Hay

Straw mulch, field hay, and salt hay, all have the similar properties of being untidy, lightweight, and a good winter covering. Usually sold in bales, these mulches are used in vegetable gardens where finesse is not a concern. They are good mulches to use, but may contain weed seeds.

Types of inorganic mulch are slate, stones, brick chips, plastic, and rubber mulch. Rock and gravel are a favorite in landscaping and provide good coverage. Heat retained by rocks also lend warmth to the soil which is good for growing. Plastic mulch is used in the form of plastic sheets, with cutaways for the plants to grow through. Rubber mulch is made from recycled rubber tires.

Organic mulches can sometimes have a negative effect on plants if the bacteria and fungi that decompose the mulch soak up nitrogen from the surrounding soil, thus depriving the other plants. Organic mulches can also get compressed and form a mat over the soil, which cuts off the soil from water and air.

Mulching is not only one of the best things you can do for your plants, it is also a wonderful way to recycle. Turn all that you prune, trim, and cut from your garden into compost, and use it to nourish the soil.
Wood Chip Biomass Fuel
Sphagnum Moss in spring