Blog Author
(view profile)
Recent Entries to this Blog How to Prevent Email Spam
Posted: 04 Oct 2007
What is a Blog?
Posted: 14 Oct 2005
Meet Max
Posted: 16 Jul 2009
When did TV get so bad?
Posted: 16 Jul 2009
Goodbye Jinx
Posted: 13 Jul 2009

All Entries

Mulching Benefits / Organic and Inorganic Mulch Types

Category: Gardening Articles | Posted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 1:09 pm

Mulching is the practice of placing a loose surface onto the surface of soil in your flower or vegetable garden in order to protect, insulate and beautify the area. This loose covering is called a mulch and it can be either of an organic or inorganic variety. Examples of mulches include compost, stone and grass clippings. Every gardener should understand the many benefits of mulching the soil in their garden. This article will discuss the benefits of mulching, how to choose the correct mulch and have a quick look at some of the different types of organic and inorganic mulches available.

Benefits of Mulching

Let us explore some benefits of mulching:

Prevents soil erosion - Soil erosion happens when winds or water slowly wear away the surface of soil and remove it. Mulching your soil will prevent this as there is now a protective, replaceable layer.that comes between the surface of the soil and the forces of nature above it.

Insulates the soil in winter - The harsh temperatures of winter can be unkind. Mulching the soil in winter will insulate the soil preventing it from repeated patterns of freezing and thawing and will insulate plant roots. It prevents heaving (buckling upward) of soil in spring. Mulch should be applied to the soil when it has frozen and removed in spring only when there is no danger of further frosts. Winter-mulched soil thaws out more quickly in the spring.

Cools down soil in summer - A layer of mulch in summer protects the soil beneath from the extreme heats of summer and reduces the need for constant watering i.e. water retention is improved.

Helps against soil compaction - The layer of mulch acts as a buffer or extra layer between entities that can cause compaction on the soil below e.g. people, equipment, heavy rains.

Improves appearance - A mulch applied to your bed can make it look more complete and attractive. This varies from mulch to mulch as some are more attractive and natural looking than others.

Prevents weed growth - One of the more useful benefits of mulching is in weed prevention. While the mulch itself will not stop weeds from germinating it serves to act as a barrier between the weeds and the outside world above. When a weed reaches the mulch layer it will not be able to break above it and it will eventually die back. Some mulches perform this weed prevention feature better than others. Depth of mulch is also a contributing factor. Care should be taken however when selecting mulches as some mulches like grass clippings and straw may actually contain weed seeds.

Keeps fruit and vegetables clean - A layer of mulch reduces the chances of fruit and vegetables getting dirty from splashes from the soil below.

Choosing the Correct Mulch for Your Garden

Careful thought should be given when choosing a mulch to apply to your garden as each is different and should fit in with your exact requirements. Here are some common factors that should be considered:

Soil pH suitability - Some mulches like bark mulch and pine needle mulch can affect the pH value of soil so they are best used on soils containing acid-loving plants.

Removal in spring - Certain mulches need to be removed in spring because they can smother emerging plants. Examples include stone mulch and bark chips.

Cost - Is cost a limiting factor in your choice of mulches? If so you can find your mulch for free if you choose certain types. If you keep a compost heap then you will have compost for mulching. Other free mulches (if you have the sources) are pine needles and grass clippings.

Appearance - Do you care about how the bed will look when the mulch is applied? Each mulch adds a different look and depending on the design of your garden you may want to choose a mulch that matches it in colour and texture.

Penetration by water and air - Some mulches are better at allowing water and air to pass through them than others. This may be important depending on a plant's watering requirements.

Addition of nutrients to the soil - Organic mulches add nutrients back into the soil when they decompose. The nutrient types and their amounts added back into the soil depend on the mulch and it varies quite a bit. Using compost as a mulch guarantees plenty of nutrients for your plants.

Some Types of Organic Mulch

This type of mulch once used to be living material and as such will decompose over time. During their decomposition vital nutrients will be added back into your soil. However you may want to avoid using organic mulches if you have rodent problems. Some common organic mulches are:

Compost - Mulches and feeds the soils as it decomposes. This mulch is free if you have access to your own compost heap. Apply at a depth of 1 - 3 inches.

Pine Needles - Commonly used with acid soils. Cheap, looks great and allows water to pass through freely to the soil below. It decomposes quite slowly however. Apply to a depth of 1 - 1.5 inches

Straw - Provides great insulation, water penetration and weed control. Care should be taken that straw does not contain weed seeds itself. Apply to a depth of 6 - 8 inches.

Grass Clippings - Readily available and decomposes quite quickly adding nitrogen back into the soil. Try not to apply too fresh as it can heat up quite a bit and possibly cause damage to your plants. Apply to a depth of 1 inch.

Newspaper - Provides great weed control and is readily available. Apply another mulch on top to keep it in place. Apply in 2 layer sections.

Some Types of Inorganic Mulch

Inorganic mulches are inert materials that have not originated from living material. Sometimes inorganic and organic mulches are used in conjunction with one another. For example a geotextile (inorganic mulch) may be covered and held in place by bark chips (organic mulch). Some common inorganic mulches are:

Stone - Looks great and provides great insulation. If removal in spring is a factor in your choice of mulch avoid using stone. Degrades very, very slowly. Apply to a depth of 2 - 4 inches.

Plastic - Does not decompose so it does not add anything into the soil. Acts as a great weed control and is easily laid. Must be perforated to allow water to pass through. Apply in a thickness of 1 - 6 mm.

Geotextile - Expensive blanket-like synthetic fiber that provides great weed control and allows for water penetration. Almost always used in conjunction with a cover mulch (e.g. bark chips). Apply in a single layer.


In this article we looked at the many benefits of mulching and the different types available. Maybe take the time today to decide which mulch to use in your garden if you have not mulched in the past. You may be surprised at how cheap the process can be if you use mulches such as compost from your compost heap, grass clippings from your lawn cuttings and/or the Sunday newspapers! Happy mulching.

This blog entry has been viewed 28171 times
You're reading one of many blogs on
Register for free and start your own blog today.

Leave a Comment

Login or register to leave a comment.

Archives All Entries
July 2024
June 2024
May 2024
April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005

My Recommended Links BBC Gardening
U.S PLANTS Database