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How to Pick the Right Mulch

Mulch can be a confusing garden purchase. With so many types of mulch available, it’s hard to know which one to choose. Learn about rock mulch, wood mulch, cocoa hulls, straw mulch, and more, so that you pick the best mulch for your yard.

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Mulch is any material you cover your flower beds with. Gardeners mulch to keep down weeds, preserve moisture, and add beauty. You have several options when it comes to mulch. Rock mulch is the most permanent option. With a layer of landscape fabric underneath, rocks won't fade, wash out, blow away, or decompose. It's not a good choice when you'll be planting annuals or bulbs on a regular basis, but it's a good material for low maintenance landscapes. Wooden bark mulches are the most common choices. They're inexpensive, provide a nice natural look, and are easy to apply. They don't last forever. Over the course of a few years they'll decompose and so you'll have to put down a new layer to freshen it up. Pine straw is a common mulch choice, especially in the South. It slowly acidifies soil, making it great for hydrangea, azalea, and rhododendron beds. Cocoa hulls are a more exotic option. This byproduct of the chocolate industry is an excellent mulch. It's good for the soil, and it smells great too. One warning, dogs often eat cocoa hulls which can make them sick. So this isn't good choice for dog owners. Apply mulch two to three inches deep. For every 100 square feet of area, that equates to about 10 to 12 bags of wood mulch. Spread it by hand in between plants, or use a rake in more open areas.