How to Choose the Best Type of Mulch for Your Landscape
While mulching may seem like a basic part of gardening, there are a few must-knows about the different mulches you can use and the benefits that each provides. Though shredded bark might immediately come to mind, there are several other types of mulch that you may want to consider using in your garden. Knowing when to add mulch to your planting beds, and how much to use, is also important for keeping all your plants healthy. Keep these tips in mind as you’re planting your spring garden and throughout the entire year, especially if you decide to add any new beds or landscaping.
Benefits of Mulch
There are a number of advantages to adding mulch in your garden. In the summer, mulch helps the soil hold moisture so you don't have to water as often. In the hot sun, soil also tends to dry out faster and harden. Mulch will help protect the soil from baking in direct sunlight and keep your plants happy.
Mulch also prevents weeds. Adding it to your planting bed will block light from reaching the soil, which keeps many kinds of weed seeds from sprouting. By adding a thick layer of mulch, you'll ensure that the weeds never see the light of day!
Test Garden Tip: While an even layer of mulch is ideal, don't overdo it. The best depth for a mulch layer is 2-4 inches. Any deeper, and it can be difficult for oxygen to reach the soil, which can cause your plants to suffer.
Over time, garden mulch types made from organic materials (those produced by or part of a living thing) break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility. This is especially true with compost used as a mulch because the nutrients in it will promote soil organisms and fuel plant growth. Plus, a layer of mulch can help fight climate change because covered soil holds onto carbon instead of releasing this greenhouse gas into the air.
When to Add Mulch
Every spring, check on the mulched areas of your garden and add more if the layer is starting to get thin. If you're mulching a large area of your yard for the first time and not just touching up a few garden beds, you might want to schedule a delivery from a bulk supplier. It'll be less expensive than buying a ton of bagged mulch from your local garden center, and you won't have to haul all of those bags in your vehicle to your yard either.
When late fall rolls around, check on your mulch again, and reapply if needed. In the winter, a good layer of mulch acts like insulation, helping to regulate the soil temperature. This reduces stress on plant roots and can prevent frost heaving where smaller plants are pushed out of the ground as it freezes and thaws repeatedly. Make sure the ground has frozen a few times before adding mulch as a protective layer for the winter.
Types of Garden Mulch
Depending on your landscape design and what you're planting, each of these choices can make a good mulch.