What Is Mulch & Why Do We Need It?

How To Use Mulch

Mulch has many uses. It protects the soil from the sun and keeps the ground moist. This prevents your soil from going bone dry and starving your plants of life-giving moisture and nutrients.

Using organic mulch also adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

Added to your garden bed it will also stop weeds from popping up, which will make for a low maintenance garden that’s pleasing on the eye. Weeds take precious nutrients from the soil and away from your plants and trees.

What is mulch made of?

For the most part, the ingredients or composition of mulch falls into one of two types of mulch, organic or non-organic.

Organic Mulch

Organic mulches are definitely the more popular of the two types. As matter decomposes, the nutrients break down into the soil to create a natural and nutrient-dense environment that your plants will thrive in.

If you’re switching to organic to be more environmentally conscious then consider the sustainability of your product. What we mean by that is using bark from pine trees is more sustainable than using bark from a gum tree.

The main types of organic mulches are…

Wood Chips and Bark Mulch

Wood chips and bark take a long time to decompose so you won’t have to replace it for some time. Lay the bark about 3 inches away from the root of your plant to avoid rot.

It’s not a good idea to use wood chips or bark for vegetable patches or annual plants that you’re going to want to dig up and re-plant as you’ll need to remove the woodchips come replanting time.


Using the humble shredded newspaper as a form of mulching is becoming quite the trend. A sheet of newsprint retains moisture well, suppresses weed growth and helps stabilize the soil temperature in the flower beds.

Moisten the newspaper sheets to help hold them in position. Spread a layer of five to seven sheets around the trees and shrubs. Cover the newspaper with a 2 – 3- inch layer of another mulch like clippings, leaves or bark to create a weed mat that will make it more difficult for weed seeds to take hold.

Grass Clippings and Pine Needles

Cheap and easy to access, all you need to do is empty your lawnmower or rake a freshly cut lawn. Just make sure you don’t use grass clippings or leaves taken from a lawn that’s been sprayed with a weed or bug killing agent.

Grass clippings contain nitrogen and potassium so as they decompose into the soil they double up as a fertilizer to help your trees and vegetables grow. The downside is that grass retains water very well which means it can get soggy as it decomposes. Use sparingly for best results. Pine needles are an excellent material to add to gardens as they don’t retain water.

Hay and Straw

Again the good thing about hay and straw is that it’s easy to get your hands on and it won’t cost a fortune. Hay retains moisture and will protect the soil from the sun. Slugs also dislike the texture of straw so they’re less likely to crawl over it to get to your plants.

If you chop the hay or straw a little finer it will look much nicer in your garden. Just be cautious that you don’t apply too much hay as it can become wet and sloppy in the rain and cause rot which will kill your plants.

Types of Synthetic and Inorganic Mulches

These mulches can be made from stones, pebbles, recycled glass and rubber. Most people tend to use organic materials but there are some advantages to using inorganic mulches as well.

These are often used by landscapers to give a garden a little more of a landscape designer edge. A big plus is they don’t break down like the above organic examples so don’t need replacing anywhere near as often. they can also contain weeds better.

Be sure to choose wisely when you decide which inorganic material to use when mulching your garden. Once added to a garden bed it won’t break down or decompose. and nobody enjoys picking up individual pebbles until they’re all gone.

Plastic Mulches

It might sound unusual but plastic mulch has many advantages. By covering the surrounding soil with black plastic, plants will get warm and dry soil that’s protected from insects. Black plastic retains the heat from the sun so you won’t experience any wet rot.

To install the landscape fabric plastic you can hold it down using rocks and cut holes for the flowers to pop their heads out through so they still get plenty of sunlight and to allow for watering.

Stones and Gravel

Stones and gravel are perfect for gardens that require good water drainage. Choose carefully though as they are easy to install but much more difficult to extract. Weeds also tend to be easier to remove from stones and

Written by Jenny Harland

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