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What Are the Best Mulches for Landscaping? 5 Great Options

mulching garden

Seasoned gardeners know the importance of mulching in maintaining plant and soil health. The process may seem easy, but you must use the right type of mulch to reap its maximum benefits. Many people use shredded bark as a go-to mulch. But there are many other excellent options you can consider.

Mulch is any material that covers the soil to make the space look beautiful. It also retains soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and regulates temperature. However, to reap these benefits, you should know when and how to add mulch to your gardening plants. Using the correct quantity also makes a huge difference.

If you’re planning to upgrade your regular landscaping mulch, this post discusses five 5 great mulching options you can try. We will also tell you why mulching is essential and when and how to do it. Let’s get started!

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Why Is Mulching Important?

Whether you’re new to gardening or have been doing it for years, you must know the importance of mulching for your plants. If you don’t mulch them often, you may unknowingly invite a lot of problems in the long run.

Mulch offers many benefits to your gardening plants. The most prominent ones include the following:

  • Moisture Retention: In summer, the soil gets dried out faster and becomes hard due to the scorching sunlight. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture for a long time and prevents it from baking up. So, you don’t have to water your plants all the time and keep them happy.
  • Weed Prevention: Weed prevention is a major concern for most gardeners. Mulch protects your plants from weed growth by blocking light from reaching the soil. When the weed seeds don’t get enough light, they don’t sprout. But make sure you add a thick layer of mulch to make this happen.
  • Plant Growth: Mulches made of organic materials, such as compost, break down with time, releasing nutrients in the soil. This enhances your soil’s fertility, promotes plant growth, and improves the soil structure.
  • Climate Protection: A fine layer of mulch can trap carbon inside the soil instead of releasing it into the air. This protects the climate from this greenhouse gas.
hyacinth on wood mulch
Image Credit: Coernl, Pixabay

You must apply the ideal layer of mulch to your planting beds to get all these benefits. Overdoing mulching may not give you desired results.

The best mulch depth is around 2–4 inches. If you go higher than that, oxygen will be difficult to reach the plant’s soil. As a result, your plants will suffer and may start wilting sooner.

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The 5 Types of Mulch for Landscaping

Different mulch work wonders for varying landscape designs and plant needs. Depending on your gardening requirements, here are five great types of mulches for landscaping:

1. Shredded Bark

mans hand holding mulch
Image Credit: larisa Stefanjuk, Shutterstock

Shredded bark is a commonly used mulch that suits almost all types of landscaping and plants. It is also the least expensive mulch, made from various sources, including cedar and pine trees. The thing that most gardeners love is that shredded bark takes longer to break down. So, they don’t have to keep replacing it again and again.

Shredded bark is ideal for plants on slopes. However, remember that mulch can consume nitrogen from the soil during decomposition. Adding organic fertilizer to the soil is recommended to maintain the soil’s and plant’s health.

You may also find environmentally friendly shredded bark in the market. These are actually the byproducts of industries.

If you’re looking for product recommendations, we suggest you try the MIGHTY109’s 100% Natural Shredded Cedar Mulch. It has no added chemicals or dyes, so your plants will be in safe hands.

2. Straw

straw in a farm
Image Credit: jaminr80, Pixabay

Another great option is straw mulch. It has a unique golden color that makes your garden soil look amazing. Like shredded bark, straw mulch breaks down slower than grass clippings.

Straw mulch keeps mud away from your edible plants. This is why it is ideal for utilitarian gardens like strawberries or other veggie plants. The mulch comes in two forms: smaller and larger pieces. Both work wonders, so you can opt for any size.

Before adding straw mulch to your plants, ensure it doesn’t contain weed seeds, or else it may result in more weed production than prevention. That specifically applies if you’re using oat straws.

We’d recommend trying out Blue Mountain Hay Organic Garden Straw Mulch for your plants. It is GMO-free, pet friendly, and ideal to be used for all types of vegetable plants.

3. Compost

fresh compost
Image Credit: jokevanderleij8. Pixabay

Compost is a darker form of soil that sets well with plants. Compared to the first two options, compost mulch breaks down quickly and mixes with your soil structure in less time. It is also a common and less expensive option.

In fact, you can create compost on your own just by collecting leaves and grass clippings. You may also find compost for free in different municipalities. However, when choosing compost mulch for your garden, ensure you opt for a quality brand.

You can try Soil Blend’s Super Compost Organic Plant Food as our product recommendation. It is a certified organic product with no GMO, so there are no risks of any adverse chemical reaction. It is entirely safe to use.

4. Pine or Cedar Bark Chips

wood chips mulch
Image Credit: Olichel, Pixabay

Also called bark nuggets, pine or cedar chips are another great option to enhance the growth of your plant. They break down even slower than shredded bark mulch. But unfortunately, these chips don’t stay in one place. If you have a sloped garden, this mulch may not be the best option for you.

Pine or cedar bark chips are also unsuitable for areas with heavy rain as they can easily wash away. You may find the chips floating in the water like boats. But they are easily accessible and come in various sizes.

Remember, the bigger the chip, the longer it will take to break down, so buy them according to your planting requirements. You can try the Legigo 2QT Organic Orchid Potting Bark, which is affordable and 100% natural. It also reduces water evaporation and enhances moisture retention in your plant’s soil.

5. Stones and River Rock

crushed stone gravel
Image Credit: paulbr75, Pixabay

Stones and river rocks can be a little more expensive than organic options. However, they are inorganic, so they can’t break down in the soil. Thus, you won’t need to reapply them now and then. Yet, they keep improving your soil quality over time. Rocks are also better at weed prevention than most mulches.

However, know that rocks can get hotter in the sun than mulch. If your garden gets lots of sunlight, you may opt for another option. Regardless, rocks do make your garden area look attractive.

Stones and river rocks are ideal for cactus gardens. But if you want to use them where plants usually don’t grow, ensure to cover the soil with sheer fabric to prevent weed growth. For example, under the deck.

You can find lots of landscaping stones and river rocks online. The YISHANG 18 Pounds River Rocks and Pebbles are an excellent option to start with. These tiny rocks can enhance your garden’s overall look.

divider 4 When Is the Right Time to Add Mulch?

The best time to check and replace mulches in your garden is spring. If you see the old mulch has become thinned, add a layer as soon as possible.

However, if you are mulching your garden for the first time or in a large area, you might need a heavy mulch supply. Buying in bulk can save you lots of money. Also, be sure to get the mulch delivered to your home to prevent the transportation hassle.

When it’s late fall, you should recheck your mulch. Then, if you feel the need, reapply it without thinking twice. As winter comes around, you might need to again apply a good layer of mulch to your planting beds for proper insulation. Doing so will help the soil regulate the temperature and minimize the pressure on the plant’s roots.

In freezing weather, mulching prevents frost heaving due to repetitive freezing and thawing. Frost heaving is when the ground pushes smaller plants out. However, before adding mulch, ensure the ground gets frozen a few times.

Young man and woman landscapers cleaning and mulching flower bed
Image Credit: LanaG, Shutterstock

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Mulching is a crucial part of gardening. It maintains the soil’s moisture, prevents weeds, and promotes plant growth. Not only that, but the mulch also traps carbon in the soil to prevent it from entering the climate.

The market is filled with many great mulch options. While most people rely on shredded bark, pine and cedar bark chips also make a great choice. Every mulch is suitable for different gardening needs, so make sure you’re buying the right type.

Once you get a suitable mulch for your garden, add it at the right time and use the right quantity. These are the two rules to reap the most benefits of mulching.

Featured Image Credit: OzCameraman, Shutterstock


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