Recycled tumbled glass mixed with broken tile is used as mulch in this garden vignette
Mulching your garden bed is an art form?
It is to me!
When I have over one-hundred different materials that can be used to mulch my garden bed, I select the one that is most suitable for the site and plants, compliments the design and is priced within my budget.
I don't consider my garden work complete if I don't give my beds a finished look with mulch.
With so many options its worth taking a look at the benefits, disadvantages and aesthetic value of different mulch materials.
Watch Shirley's video on selecting the perfect mulch for your garden.
What is Mulch?
Mulch is any organic or inorganic material that is used to "top dress" or cover the soil in the garden.
You can buy mulch at your local nursery or landscape center or you can find "free" organic mulch like pine needles and leaves around your yard that can be shredded and used as mulch.
Did you know that seaweed can be used as mulch?
Inorganic mulches include non-living materials such as stone, shredded rubber, black plastic and tumbled glass.
Recycled peach pits from Pit's In Pieces makes a gorgeous and aromatic mulch with a uniform look.
Pit's In Pieces peach mulch repels snails, is long lasting and does not use nitrogen to break down.
My all time favorite mulch!
I use it in my garden.
Birth control for the garden!
When your garden soil is covered by a two or three inch layer of mulch, the sun can not penetrate the soil and stimulate weed growth.
In this case, mulch acts as a physical barrier for germination and photosynthesis of those unwanted and "unplanted" plants.
A thicker layer of mulch-up to 4"- inches can be used in cold winter gardens to insulate plants from freezing temperatures.
Recycled rubber tires are colored, shredded and used as a garden mulch and walkway material.
This is a practical mulch for commercial or institutional gardens as they are long lasting and come in a variety of color.
Great for wind-prone areas because of extra weight and I like it in the garden more than in the land fill.
Does Mulch Work?
Not as well as most birth control methods, but effective enough to keep my weeding to a minimum!
If these odds are not to your liking, abstain from gardening 'cause there is no guarantee.
(Have you seen weeds growing through sidewalk cracks?)
That is a serious will to survive.
Another reason to use mulch is to help maintain moisture in your soil by insulating it from the drying heat and to moderate temperatures around the root zone.
Shredded redwood mulch looks best in an informal garden like this one with ornamental grasses and sage where there are large open areas between plant.
Can Mulch Cause Problems?
Yes, when mulch is applied too densely or incorrectly, it changes from being your garden's friend to it's foe.
Thick layers of mulch do not allow water to percolate into the soil, so your plants die from thirst.
Mulch that is mounded up against a plant is an invitation for root rot in plants, fungus and harmful bacteria.
Too much trapped moisture can lead to plant death from drowning.
Some mulch materials such as wood chips, shredded newspaper, and shredded bark are great for deterring weeds, but they use up valuable nitrogen from the soil to break down and contribute no valuable nutrients to the soil.
Compost, on the other hand, can be used as a mulch material and enriches the soil with beneficial organisms and nutrients.
The only drawback is that weeds can find this environment "beneficial" too.
Get the hoe ready!
That said, redwood soil conditioner is neat looking when "clean" lines matter in your garden design.
Cocoa mulch can be deadly to your pets!
The ingestion of as little as 2 ounces of cocoa mulch has been implicated in severe stomach upset, and more serious illness and death at higher doses!
Dogs and cats may find the chocolate aroma irresistible and can be poisoned by the caffeine and theobromine in it.
Cocoa mulch should only be used in pet-free yards.
I found out the hard way when my dog started snacking on my cocoa mulch and threw up.
It was a lot of work to remove it from the garden and it the cocoa mulch cost more than a lot of other mulches.
The upside for "pet-free" gardens is that cocoa mulch provides great weed suppression and does not rob nitrogen from the soil to breakdown.
The downside is that your garden will be "pet-free" if your dog or cat eats the cocoa mulch!
Shredded melaleuca makes an ideal cover under tree groves
Is Mulch Expensive?
If you have a large garden, you may want to consider purchasing a "scoop" or "skip" of shredded redwood or cedar mulch from a landscape center and have it delivered to your house.
A bulk order will be less expensive in the long run than buying a lot of 1 or 2 cubic foot bags from the nursery.
Stones and gravel are useful mulches for succulent and other dry gardens.
Stone and gravel are long lasting, do not break down but should be installed with a weed barrier cloth underneath to keep the gravel from sinking into the ground.
Designer Shirley Watts uses broken mosaic as mulch.
Clever and artsy!
I use seashells as mulch in container gardens.
If you have enough to cover a garden bed, it looks beautiful in a seaside garden.
Shredded wood from construction wood pallets are a great repurposed mulch.
I would use shredded wood from construction pallets in an informal garden.
There is a perfect mulch for every garden need, budget and style.
Don't forget to pamper your soil with plenty of organic compost before covering it up with mulch.
Refresh your mulch as needed- usually once a year.