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What Is Mulch?

What Is Mulch?

By Lela S.

Despite its funny name, mulch is a really important material used in gardening. By definition, it’s any material that is spread over a surface used for gardening. There are lots of different types of mulch that are spread into two categories: organic mulch and synthetic mulch.

The difference between the two is that organic mulch can decompose and has to be replaced often, but it improves the quality of the soil. On the other hand, synthetic mulch does a better job of holding moisture and blocking weeds, but they don’t add any nutrients to the soil and don’t provide any other benefits.

First of all, let’s cover organic mulches. There are six main types of organic mulch: bark, pine needles, grass clippings, newspaper, shredded leaves, and straw.

Bark mulches can be shredded or chipped. I think that this kind of mulch is the most common. They’re usually used around trees, shrubs, and in garden beds where you won’t be doing a lot of digging. However, they don’t mix well into the soil, but they take longer to decompose.

Grass clippings aren’t always the best option, since they decompose really rapidly, and they can eventually become slimy and give off an unpleasant odor. They also tend to mat down and not let water through. On the other hand, instead of using it as mulch, why not add it to your compost pile?

Newspaper is becoming an increasingly more popular mulch. Most newspapers are now being produced with organic inks and dyes, so it’s a feasible option. They have many benefits, such as great moisture retention abilities. Warning: if you do decide to use newspaper, don’t use a CookyLela News one!

Shredded leaves are nature’s favorite mulch. They can be used as mulch ANYWHERE, and plus, they’re free! They don’t look as good as the other mulches, but they’re good for the soil and can entice earthworms to the soil. However, the leaves can mat together.

Straw and hay are popular mulches for gardens. They make paths less muddy, and they’re easy and accessible to find. It’s also easy to either rake up or work into the soil when it’s time to plant a new crop.

Second of all, let’s cover synthetic mulches. The three main types are black plastic, landscape fabric, and stone/gravel.

Black plastic and landscape fabric are mulches that I see EVERYWHERE. In people’s backyards, in front of buildings in the spring, etc. They’re good choices for around foundation plantings. However, black plastic can get very hot in the summer, and can sometimes kill all the good things in the soil, unless there is sufficient moisture.

Gravel and stone work just as well as black plastic and landscape fabric. They work best in areas that require good drainage, or beds with plants that like a little additional heat. Unfortunately, stone can be hard to remove, so choose wisely.

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