There’s probably much in your garden whether you want it there or not, and the good news is that you almost certainly do. A highly diverse collection of organic materials can be categorized under the blanket term of “mulch,” everything from leaves to rocks. Basically, mulch is a layer of organic mater which lies atop a patch of soil. This layer helps keep the soil moist and fertile, improving its health and its growing potential. It also helps eliminate unwanted plants like weeds, essentially by depriving them of the sunlight and nutrients that they need to grow. Finally, mulch can be used to simply improve the aesthetic appeal of a certain area. It can be a part of a larger design scheme, or it can be a purely functional tool. Clearly, mulch is a valuable resource to have at your disposal. But which type should you choose?
Leaves: If leaves fall into your yard during the autumn, considering leaving them where they lie. Leaves make excellent mulch, particularly during the winter. They break down fast unfortunately, but while they last they’re quite an ideal option.
Grass Clippings: One of the more inconspicuous types of mulch, grass clippings are even better for soil than leaves. They break down almost as quickly, but when they do they leave nutrients behind, making them one of the more valuable types of organic mulch. That being said, if the grass has been treated with chemicals it’s probably not the best option, as the kind of chemicals which are ideal for the growth of grass may not be so ideal for any other plants you attempt to grow in that soil.
Shredded Bark: One of the least expensive types of mulch, shredded bark breaks down slowly and is very environmentally friendly. The only issue is that it can rob the soil beneath it of some of its nutrients. Using it in conjunction with organic fertilizer is a good idea.
Compost: An excellent option, compost is rich with the kind of nutrients that soil needs to truly thrive. Compost can be created in the home using organic food and plant scraps broken down over time, or it can be purchased. Unlike some types of mulch which can interfere with your garden’s aesthetic, compost basically looks like dark soil, allowing it to blend in beautifully.
Wood Chips: A very common type of mulch, wood chips are great at lowering acidity levels in soil, making the area in which they’re placed more hospitable to a wide range of plants.
Gravel/Pebbles: To be honest, rocks probably aren’t the best option as mulch. Their main advantage is that they take far longer to break down than any other mulching material. However, they don’t add anything to the soil either. In fact, besides killing any weeds beneath them, they don’t do much of anything at all, and they’re quite hard to remove if you decide you’d rather go with a more beneficial option. Plus, they can impede the growth of certain plants you might actually want, like perennials. That being said, if you like their look, pebbles are always an option.