Garden Mulch: The Benefits and Different Types of Garden Mulch
Garden mulch can enhance the look of your garden and help keep your garden healthy. Placing mulch in your garden can also save you time by decreasing the need for watering, applying herbicides and pulling weeds. A healthy vegetable and fruit garden always begins with healthy soil. Healthy soil can be accomplished through mulching.
* Helps moderate the soil temperature.
* Enhances the growth of fruit and vegetables planted.
* Retains moisture during dry weather, which reduces the need for watering.
* Reduces weed growth.
* Natural mulches can improve the structure of the soil. As mulch decays, the material becomes topsoil, while adding nutrients into the soil.
* Enhances the beauty of the exterior of your home by adding color and uniformity.
* Can prevent trees and shrubs from getting damaged by lawn equipment.
Types of Mulch
There are two categories of mulch: living and non-living. Living mulch is made from natural matter, such as bark, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, or grass clippings. Non-living mulch includes gravel, pebbles, black plastic and landscape fabrics.
Living mulch, also known as organic mulch, is most beneficial to your garden. Unlike non-living mulch, living mulch helps improve the garden soil by adding organic matter as it decomposes. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, "Mulch may also encourage the growth of worms and other beneficial soil organisms that can help improve soil structure and the availability of nutrients for plants." Living mulch costs less than non-living mulch. Many local Park and Recreation Departments give away woodchips and bark at no charge. Living mulch decomposes over time and needs to be replaced after several years.
While non-living mulch (also known as inorganic mulch or man-made mulch) doesn't benefit your garden as much as living mulch, it is easier to maintain. The various types of non-living mulch do not attract pests and do not decompose. Non-living mulch is an especially good weed barrier.
Common Types of Living Mulch
Wood Chips or Shavings
Wood chips are one of the most commonly used types of mulch. It is best to choose older, decomposed wood mulch. Wood mulch that has not properly aged can contain toxins that are harmful to young plants. Some disadvantages include the quick decomposition of wood shavings and the possible attraction of termites.
Bark is another popular type of living mulch. It is one of the most attractive mulch materials. Common types of bark mulch include pine, cedar and cypress. Bark mulch is available as nuggets, shredded, or in chunks. The nuggets provide the best level of weed prevention. High quality cedar mulch is one of the most expensive types of mulch.
Pine needles are one of the less expensive types of mulch. They are long lasting and attractive. Pine needles allow water to get to the soil easily.
Common Types of Non-Living Mulch
Stone, Gravel, Pebbles and Crushed Stone
One of the best benefits of stone mulch is that it is long lasting. Colored stones can add additional color to your landscape. A 1-inch layer of small rocks will provide good weed control. Be aware that light shades of stone will reflect heat back up towards plants, which may be harmful.
Landscape fabric is also known as geotextile. The fabric is better than plastic because it allows air and moisture to penetrate into the soil. It is considered the best non-living mulch for long-term use. Landscape fabric is very effective at controlling weeds. Some grass may grow through the tiny holes in the fabric.
Recycled rubber is used for many outdoor products, from patio tiles to mulch. Recycled rubber is often used in playgrounds as it provides a soft alternative to wood chips. Recycled rubber has many of the same benefits as living mulch, including helping to retain moisture, moderating soil temperature and adding beauty to your landscape. It is available in many colors and won't fade.
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