Garden Mulch Ideas

Garden Mulch Ideas

Consider which material belongs over your garden soil

By Sylvia Cochran

Shovel full of dirt
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Homeowners looking for garden mulch ideas have plenty of materials to choose from. Visually pleasing colors, material differences and also sizing variations are just a few of the items to consider when searching for garden mulch. Ideas for incorporating the substances into the landscape also vary from ornamental to functional.


Using garden mulch provides significant protection to plants that might be wilting and suffering from heat stress. Soil covered with mulch does not lose as much moisture to evaporation as soil left bare. In the heat of the day, a layer of mulch offers the added benefit of keeping the soil cooler. Mulch is also a good idea for the gardener intending to decrease the growth of undesirable weeds. The layer physically bars weed seeds' access to the soil while at the same time eliminating the sunlight required for seed germination and weed plant growth.


Gardeners may choose between two basic types of garden mulch: organic or inorganic substances. Organic mulches include wood bark or straw, while inorganic materials may refer to river rocks and plastic coverings. Hobbyists frequently consider the aesthetic aspects of the different types when looking for visually pleasing and functional garden mulch ideas.

Organic Mulches

Wood bark, grass clippings, straw and leaves are common organic mulches. Over time, organic mulch discolors due to sun exposure and also breaks down. Grass clippings break down quickly and need to be reapplied often. Wood bark nuggets break down a lot slower and may serve as a soil cover for more than one year. Organic mulches offer the advantage of insulating soil against temperature changes and offering nutrients during decomposition. While organic mulches are more functional than ornamental in the long run, they can present some problems within the landscape.


When including organic garden mulch ideas in the overall landscaping setup, gardeners need to stay away from walnut wood. This wood can kill plants. Organic mulches are susceptible to fungal growth. Homemade mulches from diseased plants can spread disease-causing organisms to other --- still healthy -- plants. Using organic mulch from reputable sources is a good solution that prevents the spread of plant diseases.

Inorganic Mulches

River rocks, gravel and plastic mulches provide long-lived soil protection. Plastic sheeting discourages the spread of weeds, while rocks or gravel offer visually pleasing garden mulch ideas for landscapes that incorporate larger rock formations into a yard's decor. Basic black plastic may increase the soil's temperature by as much as 8 degrees Fahrenheit, which helps with early spring plant growth.


Inorganic mulch is not without complications. Gardeners should avoid limestone rocks, which increase the pH level of the soil. Lime is a well-known soil conditioner, and limestone rocks alter the soil sufficiently to inhibit the health of plants that prefer a low pH. Additionally, during the summer months the soil temperature increase of black plastic mulch may damage plant roots. In this instance, the mulch may need to be removed or exchanged with a different kind that stabilizes the soil temperature but does not contribute to the heat buildup.

About the Author

Sylvia Cochran is a regular contributor to DexKnows, specializing in home and garden.

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