Mulch can be described as a protective cover that is placed on the soil, mainly with the aim of modifying the effects of the local climate. It is added to the soil of flowers, trees, shrubs, and vegetables, for keeping them healthy. Apart from that, mulch also reduces time you have to spend on weeding, watering, and fighting pests in your garden. Then, there is always the advantage of keeping dirt from splashing on the flowers and vegetables, during rainy season. Retention of moisture in the soil and keeping the soil well-aerated, by diminishing compaction of soil, are the other advantages of mulching the plants/trees. Now, let us know something about the types of gardening mulch.
Different Types of Mulch
Mulch can be broadly classified into two categories - organic mulch and inorganic mulch. These categories can then further be subdivided on the basis of the material used.
Organic mulch, as the name suggests, is the one that is made from natural materials. As organic mulch decomposes over a period of time, it keeps on providing the soil with nutrients for extended time period. While making organic mulch, remember that the materials to be used should be weed free and non-matting. In most of the cases, you will find materials for organic mulch in and around your garden only.
Yard waste is one of the most commonly used types of mulch. It basically comprises of things like grass clippings, leaves, and small twigs. Before using this type of mulch, it is better to shred or compose the items before they are used. At the same time, yard waste should be used in moderation, with backs of shrubs or borders being the best place to dispose off small pruning clippings.
One of the quickest sources of nutrients comprises of straw, as it decomposes rapidly. Owing to this very fact, you will also need to replenish it frequently, in order to keep the weeds down. Though straw is cheap, it does not look too attractive in a garden. So, you should use it mainly in a vegetable garden or on newly seeded lawns.
Pine Bark and Needles
If you have pine trees in or around your house, make use of its bark as well as needles, as mulch. Of the two, pine bark is better for weed control and also lasts longer. However, it easily gets washed away in heavy rain. On the other hand, pine needles are the best for trees and shrubs that love acid. Pine needles also allow water to go through the soil easily.
Wood chips, as a type of mulch, basically refers to bark and wood pieces of various sizes. Apart from proving good protection against weeds, wood chips also look pretty attractive. Though small wood chips decay very quickly, they tend to consume nitrogen from the soil, in this process. So, you will have to put nitrogen fertilizer. At the same time, they may attract insects also.
Inorganic mulch, as the opposite of organic mulch, is not made from natural materials and does not decompose at all. In other words, you will not have to replenish this type of mulch. Along with that, it provides the perfect protection against rodents and insects. In case growth of weeds is your problem, then also inorganic mulch is the things for you. However, you need to make sure that its density is such that it allows water, nutrients and air flow to plants.
Rocks and Gravel
Rocks and gravel serve as the perfect way to keep weeds from growing in the soil. They also prevent the soil from eroding during rains. Though rocks and gravel are available at a low price, covering a wide area with them will require much effort on your part. The best part with rocks is that you can have them as a permanent landscape fixture and need not replenish them.
Landscape cloth is basically a woven material that is used as mulch. One of its best features is that it is available in many lengths and widths and can also be cut to accommodate your needs. Not only does landscape cloth control the growth of weeds effectively, but also allows water and air to move through the soil. In case of foundation plants, you can put cloth under rocks.
Another type of mulch that helps in preventing weed growth comprises of black plastic. It can also warm up the soul in spring. This means that you can get an early start while planting tomatoes and similar vegetables. However, the problem here is that since black plastic also holds water in the soil, it should not be used for poorly drained areas. You can cover black plastic with a layer of bark, to make it look appealing and reduce excessive heating up.
Rubber mulch is another form of inorganic mulch that was introduced in the market sometime back only. It is made from eco-friendly materials and can last as much as 10 years without fading or decomposing. Rubber mulch doesn’t erode during heavy rains and also impedes the growth of molds and fungi. It can be used for landscaping and playgrounds, since it absorbs the shock of impact from falls.