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What is Mulch and Why Do I Need it in My Garden?

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Yard Mulch

When I began gardening I kept on reading about mulch.  “You should mulch…” blah, blah, blah.  I knew what mulch was and what it looked like.  In all honesty, I really thought that mulch was just for decorative landscaping purposes.  Fresh mulch looks great in front of houses and businesses when it is newly laid. 

There actually is a reason for mulching other than that it looks great, though.

What is Mulch?

Mulch is organic or inorganic.  Not all mulch is pretty wood chips.  When laid, the mulch should cover the root zones of the plant that you’re mulching.

Examples of Organic Mulch
Varieties of Mulch

  • Bark
  • Wood chips
  • Leaf mold
  • Newspaper
  • Compost
  • Straw
  • Hay
  • Grass clippings

Examples of Inorganic Mulch

  • Decorative rock
  • Gravel
  • Broken down granite
  • Large Rocks (boulders)
  • Sand

Advantages and Disadvantages: Organic vs. Inorganic Mulch

Organic mulch will keep the soil cool and provide some nutrients to it.  However, organic mulches break down over time and will need to be regularly replenished.

Inorganic mulch doesn’t provide the same kind of nutrients to the soil but may in fact be easier on the eyes (it’s a matter of opinion).  Also, you won’t have to replenish inorganic mulch as regularly.  They can also warm the soil instead of cooling it.

Nutrient Enriched Mulch

Planters Pride RZP3056 8.8-Pound Miracle Mulch
Amazon Price: $13.70 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 15, 2014)

What Does Mulching do for the Garden and Landscape

  • You don’t have to water as often.  The mulch prevents the loss of moisture.  This keeps the plants healthier and you less busy.
  • Mulching inhibits weed growth by blocking that area of soil from the sun.  If a weed does manage to poke through then they are easy to yank.
  • No soil splash onto plant leaves will prevents some diseases from spreading.
  • The right kind of mulch with the right kind of plant will actually promote health and growth.
  • Heavier mulch, like gravel and rock, will prevent soil run-off when it rains.
  • It’s adds that nice, “finished look” to landscaping.

Make Your Own Mulch

LawnMaster FD1501 Electric Chipper Shredder
Amazon Price: $169.99 $145.72 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 15, 2014)

How to Use Mulch

Mulch in Garden

Apply your mulch 2 to 3 inches deep.  This should cover the plants root zone.   You shouldn’t just mulch out door plants, either.  Indoor plants should be mulched within their containers as well.

You can use weed fabric between the mulch and soil to further deter the growth of weeds.  NOTE:  Never use plastic bags as a barrier.  Plastic doesn’t allow for the transfer of water, light and ozygen to the soil beneath that is vital to healthy, non-weed, plant growth.

If you made the mistake of using plastic already, don’t worry.  I’m going to save you and your plants.  Take a pitch fork and start punching holes in the plastic.  You don’t even have to remove the mulch to do it.


Make Your Garden and Landscaping Pop!

Creatively Using Mulch

As long as you’re little bit creative and you have a clear vision at hand for what you want your garden or landscaping to look like, then it can be beautiful with some proper mulching.  Not only that your plants will be healthier as well.  You can use different textures to define area boundaries.  One of my favorite designs is on bloomed rose bushes that have been mulched with white rock.

Mulching for Weed Control (How-to)



Jul 2, 2014 9:17pm
Compelling, thanks for the information.
Jun 19, 2015 10:56pm
Great information. We have a lot of sawdust in our back yard at the moment from all the wood cutting with the chainsaw. I thought I might be able to use that on garden and not just burn in heater, but was told you have to keep it for 3 years before using. Also it could add to the risk of termites.
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