Using Organic Mulch – 5 Types Of Natural Mulch For Gardens

By Bonnie Grant | February 22, 2020
by Bonnie Grant
February 22, 2020

Go organic or go home. These are words to live by, especially when considering mulch. Inorganic mulch can have several adverse effects. Among them, they don’t break down or, if they do, they leave toxic residue in the landscape. They can limit the amount of moisture and nutrients that reach plant roots, and inorganic mulches generally cost more than their counterparts. Some even have the effect of heating up soil to the degree that plants literally cook.

Using organic mulch provides many more benefits. Once you’ve decided to use natural types of mulch, you’re likely going to feel overwhelmed by all the many choices out there. What is the best natural mulch? Which one is right for you?

Well, I’ve made that easier for you. Here are 5 natural types of mulch for gardens that are easy to use and provide all the benefits necessary to keep your plants growing healthy and happy. Each helps suppress weeds, conserves moisture, adds nutrients to the soil, and keeps plant roots warm in winter and cooler in summer. Keep in mind, though, that the one you use will depend on your site, crop or plant type, weather and soil.

  • Bark mulch – This is readily available, breaks down naturally and looks beautiful amongst your plants. It comes in a variety of natural colors and will last a year or more depending on the size. You can even use the bark mulch from an arborist company that has been shredded and can often be acquired for free.
  • Leaf mold – If your trees drop a lot of leaves, put the bag on your mower and collect them. Using the mower will also chop them up. Both leaf mold and leaf mulch will rot very quickly and it is free and easy to use, depositing plenty of nutrients in soil on its way out.
  • Straw – Depending upon where you live, straw may be cheap and plentiful. You can get it at a feed and livestock store or many nurseries. It lasts throughout the season and does an excellent job keeping down weeds. Unfortunately, some straw may contain weed seeds and contribute to the weed war so make sure you find and use the good quality straw.
  • Pine needles – You may already have evergreens in your garden that drop needles. Instead of fighting them, use them! The needles knit themselves together and form a nice web of mulch around plants. You can even use pine needles on slopes to prevent erosion. They will acidify soil, so perform a soil test in spring to see if you need to add lime to sweeten soil.
  • Compost – You can make your own or purchase good compost for use as mulch. Make sure it is well rotted or it may contain weed or other seeds. This is where the DIYer really shines. You can make compost out of kitchen scraps, end of season plant debris, and add in items like manure or worm castings to enrich it. It promotes the release of nutrients and has all the other organic benefits of a good mulch.
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  • Steve Buck
    Comment added February 24, 2020Reply

    I was not aware of the possible side effects of using inorganic mulches. This will help me and our community garden.

  • Steve Buck
    Comment added February 24, 2020Reply

    Very useful and informative.

  • Virginia Papaleo
    Comment added February 23, 2020Reply

    What can I due about my rose plants,last year there were holes all on the leaf of the bush, and I couldn't get any one to tell me what to do.It's February,2020. I want to cut down my rose bushes and give them food. So they grow into beautiful plants, last year they were growing in all different directions, and then they got all these holes in the leaves. Please Help!!!

    • Katharine Smyth
      Comment added February 25, 2020Reply

      What zone do you live in? please do not cut your rose bushes down until April or May when the weather has stabilized or you risk the chance of killing your roses. The holes in the leaves probably came from earwigs that come out at night and much on the leaves. There are different methods to catch earwigs. You can look this up on Google for the methods. A good time to feed roses are just as the leaves are starting to open up - usually in May- some alfalfa, some epsom salts and some bone meal, - about one cup- is a good mixture to spread around the roots of the roses

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