The Way to Pick a Mulch — And Your Soil Wants It

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The word “mulch” has fallen to common and nearly exclusive use as the descriptive name for shredded bark or wood merchandise; the reality is that mulch is an umbrella term for any merchandise — inorganic or organic — that functions as a topdressing for soil.

A 2- to 4-inch layer of compost during your planting beds will help conserve soil moisture, stabilize soil temperatures, decrease soil erosion, reduce soil compaction and prevent weed growth. Mulch also contributes to the design of a landscape by echoing color options, regional influences and artistic statements.

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

There are two sorts of compost: organic and inorganic. They might be used exclusively or in conjunction, with or with an underlayment of landscape cloth. Landscape cloth will keep weeds at bay and prevent parasitic mulch from sinking to the ground. Landscape cloth, however, isn’t helpful in densely planted areas.

Huettl Landscape Architecture

Organic Mulch

Organic mulches are typically wood products: substances such as pine needles or bark, shredded cedar, aspen chips, arborists’ shrub trimmings or even recycled Christmas trees. But, compost, grass clippings, nut hulls, ground corn cobs …

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… as well as seashells are best for this purpose.

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Advantages of organic mulches:
Highly permeable, allowing moisture and air to get to the plants’ root zone. As they decompose, they contribute nutrition to both soil organisms and crops. Organic mulch won’t hold or radiate heat, making it a fantastic choice for urban areas.Most are lightweight and simple for homeowners to use. Disadvantages of organic mulches:
They are not permanent and will have to be replaced over time.They may harbor insect pests.

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Cost and considerations:
Organic mulches are often the by-product of agricultural businesses and might be quite economical — even free.Due to their light weight, organic mulches are somewhat less expensive to transport and install than inorganic mulches.A cubic yard of organic mulch will cover about 100 square feet into a 3-inch depth.

Arterra Landscape Architects

Design considerations. Organic mulches have a gentle, rustic look that can boost a casual design or add a great stroke of contrast to formal or modernist elements.

Maintenance. Organic mulches will decompose, may blow off in heavy winds and can change in heavy rains. They’ll have to be tidied up from time to time and replenished every couple of years to maintain a 2-inch surface. Hand pull or spot spray weeds as needed.

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Inorganic Mulch

Inorganic mulches include all of the many rock goods — from decomposed granite or crusher fines to cobblestones and riprap. Recycled materials such as glass, rubber (tires) and smashed concrete also fall into this category. Think neighborhood when you’re sourcing merchandise for your landscape.

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Advantages of inorganic mulches:
exceptionally stable and needs to be thought of as a permanent part of the landscape.One of river stone or crushed stone is ideal in locations where high winds or forest fires are a threat.A wide variation in color, texture and size makes them very adaptable for creative landscape layouts. Disadvantages of inorganic mulches:
Most absorb and radiate heat, warming the living environment for both you and your crops. Cost and considerations:
A locally sourced merchandise will probably be easier on your budget than those imported from another region.A ton of 1Ā 1/2-inch stone will pay 55 square feet into some 3-inch depth.Rock products particularly are extremely heavy and can require special equipment and professional installation aid.


Design considerations. In many regions inorganic mulch mimics the natural environment, making it an ecofriendly choice for use with indigenous plants.

Inorganic mulch can also be used creatively in high-impact design theories such as these colorfully bold stripes of recycled glass and ice plant (Delosperma sp), or the complex tone-on-tone textural play below.

Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

Maintenance. Use a blower every week or two to clean debris from the inorganic mulch. Hand pull or spot spray weeds as needed.

Tell us : how can you use mulch in your garden?

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