The topic of mulch has been thoroughly discussed by avid gardeners for years. By now, we are well aware of the benefits of using mulch. Yes, it saves time and energy when it comes to maintaining a successful vegetable garden. Besides the obvious benefits of maintained soil-moisture and weed control, however, we also can count on controlled soil temperature and less erosion.
While most people take a trip to the closest garden center to purchase pre-packaged mulch, there are organic and affordable mulches you can find closer to home, even in your own backyard. You can have a weed-free, moist garden that smells and looks great!
Let’s take a look at five unique mulches you should consider to enhance your garden this season.
1. Pine needle mulch. This fragrant type of mulch is delicate and fine in texture. It also smells quite pleasant and has a lovely color to complement your garden. It tends to stay in place well, and because of this, is good to use on hills and slopes where other mulch would roll or blow off. Pine needles break down slowly.
It can take about 12 to 18 months to totally decompose. You can also use the needles as a garden-soil conditioner. Pine needle mulch can often can be found locally and is used year-round.
2. Straw. Straw always smells wonderful when it’s fresh and warm. It has a beautiful golden hue that adds color to the garden. Straw is slow to break down. Straw has less nutrients than grass hay, but is still one of the most-used garden mulches. A thin layer of straw will still let light through and open the door to weeds. You may want to use several inches of straw, or use shredded straw instead of loose straw.
3. Leaves. Here is a real money-saver. Use the leaves you rake up in your yard, or ask your neighbor if you can rake their leaves. Run the lawnmower over the leaves and use them as a mulch. Leaves need to be shredded before being used, and they do decompose quicker than straw and pine needles but are worth the effort. Shredding the leaves prevents them from becoming matted when damp. Dry leaves are full of minerals.
If you are wondering how many leaves you will need, keep in mind you will want to have three to four inches of leaf mulch around your plants.
Meanwhile, if you are willing to spend a little more on mulch and want something unique this season, then try these two:
Cocoa hull mulch. You will want to spray this woody-type mulch down with water, as it is really light and can blow around. Cocoa mulch has a pleasant color and fine texture. In fact, it actually smells like chocolate. This mulch is known to be one of the most beautiful and most expensive types of mulch. It doesn’t fade and is slow to decompose. It works well with herbs and other vegetables with small leaves.
Warning: Some gardeners claim cocoa hull mulch is poisonous to pets.
Grain hulls. Both rice and buckwheat can add nutrients to the soil. These mulches are slow to decompose, so you won’t have to reapply the mulch often. Grain hulls work well in areas that have poor drainage or in soils heavy in clay. They are very light, so it may be difficult to keep in the garden on windy days. You will want to wet the top of the mulch down when you first apply it to the garden.
There is a mulch for every gardener and every garden. Find a mulch that not only works with your style of gardening, but with your vegetables as well.
What are your favorite mulches? Share your tips in the section below: