What are the Different Types of Mulch?

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  • Written By: L. Burgoon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 15 January 2020
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Mulch keeps a garden healthy and plants happy by providing a ground cover to retain moisture, tamp down weeds. and protect soil from heat or cold. There are dozens of types of mulch, from common ones such as wood chips, straw, and leaves to unusual varieties including cocoa hulls, black plastic, and newspaper. Some gardeners choose to make their own mulch from household materials as a way to adopt greener gardening methods. Gardeners also may have mulch brought into their yard in bulk for large jobs.

Wood is among the most common types of mulch. This variety comes in chips made from branches and bark. Some gardeners prefer wood mulch because it looks pleasing and, depending on type of wood selected, can be color coordinated. For instance, cedar mulch can provide a deep red garden cover. Wood mulch is heavier than other types; it may better withstand rainy or windy conditions, although others object to the clearcutting of trees that may be required to produce some wood mulches.


Some gardeners opt to use materials that may be less aesthetically pleasing, but offer other benefits. Straw and dead leaves, for example, are standard types of mulch. Straw provides a stable ground cover that’s easy to walk over, making it a good choice for vegetable gardens. Straw decays quickly and must be replaced throughout the gardening season it nourishes the soil as it decomposes, however. Dead leaves, also not the most attractive choice, are thick enough to prevent weed growth, inexpensive, and also nourish the soil as they decay.

Gardeners looking "outside of box" for types of mulch may turn to smooth glass, which comes in different colors. Shells from pecans, walnuts, and oysters also provide stable ground cover. Some gardens feature cocoa hull mulch, which has the added benefit of smelling like chocolate for several weeks. Sheets of newspaper or black plastic also are among types of mulch. The latter is especially effective at heating the soil in early spring and preventing weed growth.

Even with so many types of mulch available, some gardeners have moved away from store-bought varieties to produce their own ground cover. Newspaper mulch is easily crafted by individuals. Gardeners can create their own glass mulch by smashing up bottles, i.e., recycling in action. Creating one’s own mulch reduces demand on materials such as wood chips and may help protect the environment. Some gardens, however, are simply too big for do-it-yourself mulch, and landscapers may do better with bulk mulch available from home improvement centers.



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Post 3

I use mulch made from coconut fiber. It works quite well. I think it's keeping the soil moisture in balance because the shrubs have become greener since I applied the mulch.

I have used some other unconventional things for mulch, like shredded paper. But I did not have much luck. I think it takes a lot of effort to make a good homemade mulch with things like paper. If it's not done right, it can actually harm soil than help it. And it doesn't look very nice either.

Post 2

@fify-- I used grass clippings as mulch for several seasons and then switched to organic mulch made of bark.

Grass clippings are actually a great idea for mulch. Grass is rich in nitrogen and it's free, so what could be better? I unfortunately had some issues with using grass as mulch. I don't know if it's due to climate, grass type or soil type. My issue was basically that the grass took a very long time to decompose. Actually, it wouldn't decompose and would harden forming a hard layer on top of the soil. That was great for keeping weeds away and filling spaces, but I soon discovered that this layer was preventing water from getting underneath. Mulch is

supposed to keep soil moist, whereas grass as mulch was keeping it completely dry.

This is why I switched to organic bark mulch, but I know that grass mulch works great for some people. Perhaps I didn't use it correctly, I'm not sure.

Post 1

Does anyone here use grass clippings as mulch? Does grass have any benefits for soil as it decomposes or does it just fill space?

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