Mother Nature abhors a vacuum. She will cover bare soil with weeds if we don’t cover it with something ourselves. Organic mulch is the mainstay of a healthy garden. At the very least, it suppresses weeds, regulates soil temperature (in both summer and winter) and helps retain soil moisture. However, the most important thing that it does is feed the soil microbes, making a healthier environment for roots.

Here are some different types of organic mulch you might consider for your garden and landscape. Apply a 2-3 inch layer around your plants, keeping it away from the stem or trunk.

• Bark comes in many forms from large chunks to shredded. Bark lasts for several years, the larger chunks lasting longer than the shredded bark. Some people don’t like the fact the bark fades over time but there are products available to re-enhance the color.

Bark Mulch

• Pine needles make great mulch, especially around acid loving plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, dogwoods and holly. They’re free, too! They are good for pathways and help create a woodland atmosphere. They allow for good air circulation and allow water to penetrate easily. Be careful, because they can poke you if you spread it without gloves.

• Lawn clippings, because they are high in nitrogen, ideally should be left on your lawn to decompose. If you do collect them for mulch, make sure you haven’t used a weed killer on the grass. The herbicide can leach out and be picked up by desirable plants Nitrogen may cause excessive vegetative growth. Use a thin layer for mulch because the clippings will begin to ferment and smell terrible. It won’t hurt the plant, only your nose.

Grass Mulch

• Straw isn’t that attractive around ornamental plants but will work in your vegetable garden. Straw is the dried stems of wheat, oats or other forage crops. Hay is dried grass and most certainly contains weed seeds unless it’s certified weed free. Water and air can easily pass through this material, but it does have a tendency to blow around. This is good winter mulch for, what else? Strawberries.

Straw Mulch

• Shredded leaves make wonderful mulch and they’re free. Shred your leaves with a leaf shredder or just mow over them a time or two. They will be less likely to blow around or to mat down and they will decompose faster if the pieces are smaller.

• Cocoa-bean hulls are available but can be pricey. They are an attractive brown color and will, for a short time, make your garden smell like chocolate. In this area it is purchased in bags. Dogs may find this a tasty mulch but this bark, like chocolate, may be toxic to your dogs.

• Compost, can’t be beat for mulch. It decompose quickly and adds nutrients to the soil. Its dark color is attractive and it’s available in bulk.

Remember, you can cover the soil with something good, or Mother Nature will cover it with weeds. Let’s beat her at her own game.

 

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