I’m continuing the scintillating series on mulch with more information from an article that was first published in the Kent County Daily Times.
It’s easy to be confused by the many different types of materials that are used as mulch. Here’s a little information to get you started.
The most popular mulches are organic — made from formerly living materials that decay over time and add nutrients to the soil. Examples include wood chips, shredded tree bark, sawdust, pine needles, compost, buckwheat hulls, peanut shells, and shredded yard waste such as leaves.
Mulch made from cocoa bean hulls leaves gardens smelling like chocolate, and coffee lovers will savor garden beds covered with spent coffee grounds or roasted coffee beans. But these more exotic mulches come with a higher price tag.
Each type of mulch has different pros and cons. For example, mulch made from cypress mulch is fairly easy to find, but is considered environmentally unfriendly because it’s made from cypress trees that grow in fragile wetlands. Pine needle mulch decomposes very slowly, is readily available to many homeowners, and is best used on acid-loving plants. Shredded leaves are very plentiful to homeowners with deciduous trees, but are considered unattractive by many. Shredded pine, cedar, and hemlock bark are very plentiful and reasonably priced.
Inorganic mulches include materials that do not break down over time, such as decorative stone and gravel, synthetic rubber mulch made from recycled tires, plastic mulch, and geotextile landscape fabrics.
Inorganic mulches are preferred by gardeners who only want to mulch once, but they are more expensive than conventional organic mulches. In addition, they deprive plants of the nutrients provided by mulch decay and are not appropriate for all plants. Some inorganic mulch is impermeable to water and may heat the soil to unacceptable levels, especially in warm climates. Reflective mulches may actually burn young plants and thin-barked trees.
Your local nursery expert (but probably not a big-box garden center salesperson) can to help you choose the best type of mulch based on your budget and the needs of your plants.
Photo of wood chip mulch courtesy of Truly Free Stock.