Mulching is important for both the look and health of gardens. But just as different plants like different amounts of sunlight and water, different beds do best with different types of mulch. By matching your mulch to the type of garden you have, you can make sure you're doing the best for your plants.
Wood Chips – Aesthetically, wood chips are a very versatile choice as they come in a variety of colors. If you are mulching edible plants, however, stay away from dyed wood chips and choose a natural look. As far as their properties, wood chips are very good at keeping the soil from drying out.
Bark – Shredded bark is similar to wood chips, but it is made only from the outer bark of trees. They generally break down more slowly than wood chips, so if you're looking for long-term cover, they are a good choice; if your goal is for your mulch to break down and release nutrients into the soil, however, there are better options.
Sawdust – If you have plants in your garden that like acidic soil, sawdust can be a good mulch. As it decomposes, it will lower the pH of the soil. However, sawdust decomposes fast – you will probably need to fluff it up or reapply it throughout the year. And in windy areas, you may find your sawdust eroding very quickly.
Pine Needles – Another choice to acidify soil is pine needles, and if you live in a forested area, you may be able to rake them up for free. They decompose much more slowly than sawdust, and it's lightweight and easy to use. Because it's lightweight, however, it's a bad choice for windy areas, where it will blow around. It also does a poor job of controlling weeds, so it's best used over a sublayer of plastic or newspaper.
Straw – Straw mulch has many of the same advantages and disadvantages as pine needles – cheap, easy to use, but bad for weeds and high winds. The biggest difference is that it will not acidify your soil.
Hulls – If you live in an area where crops like cocoa or buckwheat are processed, the leftover hulls might make a very economic mulch; otherwise, they can be quite expensive. But they make up for this with very attractive and unique textures. Cocoa hulls can even impart a slight chocolate aroma to a garden. Hulls do not do well in high winds, and you should avoid cocoa hulls if you have dogs, as they contain the same compounds that make chocolate toxic to them.
Leaves – Shredded leaves can work well as a mulch. The ideal way to apply them is to wait for them to begin to slightly decompose; otherwise, they may block water from reaching the soil. While they are not necessarily the most attractive of mulches, they are very good for the soil; as they break down, they will release nitrogen back into the ground.
Crushed Stone – Mulches made from stone or gravel are often used on walkways and paths. They don't blow around in high winds, and they are very good at blocking weeds, but they also don't break down and contribute any nutrients to a garden. Aesthetically, they come in a multitude of options, and the right crushed stone can fit in with almost any landscaping design.
Plastic – A layer of black plastic mulch is great for use under other mulches, helping the soil hold water and blocking weeds. It's not particularly attractive, so it's not often used on its own in decorative beds. And it's important to leave enough in the way of gaps for water to get through the plastic; just as it keeps the water in the soil from evaporating, it also blocks rainwater from reaching the soil.
For more information, contact a business such as Rt 34 Landscape Supply Yard.