The Lowdown on Mulch

As you’re planning your spring gardening, have you given much thought to mulch?  It’s a fairly basic, utilitarian garden element, but there are a number of materials you can choose from.  Some are better for one application than others.  If you’re tempted to grab the cheapest bags you can find at your local home improvement store, you may want to read this helpful article on mulch materials from This Old House. 

Mulch provides a variety of benefits.  In addition to giving a neat, finished appearance to your garden beds, it also helps reduce the need for watering by slowing evaporation, and it cuts down on weeds.  Some mulches break down quickly, providing nutrients to the soil.  Others are more sturdy, providing cover for a long time without needing to be replaced or added to.  You can even choose eucalyptus mulch, which has a pleasant scent that deters many insect pests.

Keep in mind that most mulches are a fairly lightweight material, and they can float away in a heavy rain or be blown by strong winds.  Others such as shredded hardwood bark compact and form a dense mat that stays put.  One unique item that will resist wind is recycled glass.  This material provides a unique look as well as color interest, but you don’t want to use it where it may get caught in lawnmower blades.

Whether you’re choosing mulch to temporarily keep the weeds down in your vegetable garden, insulate your perennials over the winter, or you want a more permanent finishing touch for your garden beds, be sure the mulch you choose is appropriate for the intended use.  If you have any questions about using mulch in your landscape, seek the advice of a garden professional.