So much mulch—which is the best for your landscape?
Mulch is like a warm hug for your garden and landscape. It holds in moisture while preventing weeds and scorching from the sun, along with a number of other benefits. Here’s a look at the different types of mulch and which could be the best fit for your outdoor space.
8 Organic Mulch Varieties
Organic mulch is hands-down the best choice for your landscape, as it breaks down naturally and adds nutrients to the soil. You’ll need to replenish it on a regular basis, but consider it an investment in the health of your plants and lawn.
1. Grade A Cypress Mulch
Grade A Cypress consists of only the bark stripped from the outside of the tree and holds in moisture better than any other mulch. It’s one of the priciest options, but it keeps its shape and color the longest. It also has the slowest breakdown of all organic types.
2. Bulk Cypress Mulch
Bulk cypress mulch is the most common type found at home improvement and retail stores. It contains the interior wood of cypress trees after they get stripped of their bark to make Grade A cypress mulch. This typically holds its color for about a year before it needs to be replaced.
If you opt for this type of mulch, be sure to remove the old before spreading the new. It doesn’t break down as effectively as other organic mulches. It will also suck up more moisture from the ground and can clump up, grow mold, and attract insects such as ants, roaches, and termites.
3. Crushed Pine Needle Mulch
Pine needle mulch has a vibrant color and is one of the best choices for weed control. Although you’ll need more to block sunlight than cypress, it takes less effort to spread and provides better coverage.
It also has the best nutrients to add to the soil, but it breaks down faster than cypress and needs more frequent replenishment. Plus, it’s pretty lightweight and can get carried away easily by a strong gust of wind. Overall, though, it’s an affordable option that spreads further than any other mulch.
4. Pine Bark Mulch
Pine bark mulch typically holds its color and lasts longer than most organic mulches. It comes in crushed or nugget forms. Crushed mulch will take more bags to spread, but will give the best coverage and keep its natural brown color the best. Keep in mind that this is a lightweight and buoyant mulch, meaning it could get washed or blown away in harsh weather.
Straw works best as a light cover for your freshly seeded lawn. It helps hold the seed in place while also preventing hungry birds and rodents from having it for lunch. Like other mulches, it also holds in moisture, which is extra important for thirsty grass seeds.
If you mulch your yard with this, remember to pick straw rather than hay—hay contains seeds that may later turn into weeds.
6. Composted Manure
Animal manure mixed in with compost is a top-tier choice for your vegetable garden, but it works for other plants as well. A major benefit of this material is that it breaks down slowly, allowing a continuous release of nutrients over time.
Be sure not to use fresh manure on your lawn or garden though, as this contains way too much nitrogen and will burn your plants. Also, don’t use manure from cats, dogs, or pigs, as it can contain parasites. Rather than raiding the backyard or litter box, head to your local garden center or find an animal farmer who will happily provide it for free.
7. Grass Clippings
The clumps left behind by your lawnmower are an excellent (and free) option for controlling weeds around your trees, shrubs, and flower garden. Take care not to spread it too thickly, as it can mat together and form an impenetrable layer that blocks out water. Be sure the clippings you use weren’t treated with herbicides within the last month.
A great DIY mulch for natural weed prevention is either cardboard or newspaper. Be sure to leave out glossy ad flyers, tape, and other inorganic materials that won’t break down. As a bonus, you’ll be providing delicious munchies for your earthworm friends.
2 Inorganic Mulch Types
These inorganic mulches will help prevent weeds and slow their spread, plus they won’t require replacement nearly as often. They’re also quite pleasing to the eye and create a clean aesthetic that some favor.
However, they don’t bring any soil nutrition to the table, as they won’t break down naturally. They should not get used for plants, trees, and other living parts of your lawn.
There are quite a few rock varieties to choose from, and these make great weed-busting materials for walkways. However, they can compact soil and cause too-high soil temperatures, which can stress out your plants. Because of this, you should not use it around your garden, trees, and other plants.
2. Rubber Mulch
Rubber mulch consists of cut-up old tires and dye. This is technically playground mulch, but it’s sometimes found in landscaping (although this is not recommended). It will dry up a garden instead of retaining moisture, and it can damage plants due to its weight.
If you’re still unsure which type of mulch to use for your lawn or garden, consult a landscaper in your area for advice.