Garden Mulch

Garden mulch is any material placed directly on exposed soil
to prohibit sunlight from entering, preventing possible
seed germination and weed growth.

Also, mulching doesn't apply to the summer growing season only.  Fall gardening is just as important when preparing to use winter mulch.


Outside of suppressing weeds,
 mulch also acts as:

  • Insulator that keeps soil temperature consistent for both lawn and garden.

  •     * In hot climates mulch keeps root zones cooler.
        * In winter climates offers protection for plants from
           early fall frosts.

  • Retains moisture which:

        * Saves money by watering less.
        * If you live in dry areas, really helps to retain moisture
           in soil.

  • Helps prevent soil erosion.
  • Establishes plants more quickly.
  • Enhances the landscape during gardening season depending on type of garden mulch method.
Mulch retains moisture and acts as an insulator.
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List of Mulch Types - Organic
Mulch and soil amendments that can be used as mulch.
List of Mulch Types - Inorganic
Solarizing black plastic mulch to rubber mulch and beyond.



Winter Mulch


Winterizing gardens is especially important. During the winter months plants harden off and go dormant. Garden mulching for winter adds an extra layer of protection that is good for many reasons.


First, it is important to wait for the ground to freeze before placing mulch when fall gardening - timing is key.

  • If mulch is applied too early plants are vulnerable as they may not completely harden off. Once the temperatures plummet into sub-zero range plants aren't likely to make it.
  • If ground isn't freezing and mulch is put down even before first frost, insects and rodents may make the mulched area home for winter. This could be a surprising headache come spring.
  • You'll have Mulch Heave. This is where roots heave up out of the ground because of the cycle of freezing and thawing. This ultimately impacts the root system where due to exposure to elements the plant will die.

    When this heaving happens you know it. One way to remedy is to stretch chicken wire over area.  Cut a small hole to allow for plant stems.  Once wire is in place put bricks or heavy rocks on to keep wire flat.



Don't mulch too soon when starting spring gardening. Just as mulching in the fall - timing is key here to. Allow the ground to warm gradually. Vegetation wakes up from being dormant.


Once all frosts have passed from winter, scrape back existing mulch. This also aids in warming garden soil. Then begin to build up garden mulch, allowing a significant layer of weed protection once growing season starts.

Always remove garden mulch from any area
a new plant will be placed.


This is very important. If mixed into the soil the mulch can have negative consequences, such as nitrogen being taken from 
soil. Should this happen roots have a hard time getting established.



Simple rule of thumb to help figure out how much mulch you need.

  • For heavier mulches, like pine bark nuggets or gravel, apply a 2 - 3 inch layer.
  • For lighter mulches, such as pine needle mulch or straw, apply a 4 - 6 inch layer.

This is not an exact mulch calculator but it helps greatly. If you do want to add more it doesn't hurt.




Tree Mulching


Whether you have trees in your garden or lawn, some gardening tips when it comes to applying organic mulch:

Don't place mulch too closely around the tree base or mound it up. Doing so..

  • Promotes tree rot.
  • Invites pests and mildew, especially when mounding.
  • For small trees keep mulch about 3 - 6 inches away from the trunk.
  • For large, mature trees keep mulch 8 - 12 inches away from trunk.


As for other mulching tips for trees...

It saves money to take advantage of mowing over and shredding dead leaves in the fall then using as mulch. Keep these shredded leaves away from Black Walnut, Eucalyptus and Laurel trees. There is a compound found in leaves that can prohibit growth for these particular trees.

Tips for planting and transplanting trees..




When it comes to garden mulch, as with anything else,
if there are any directions given - Read 'em!



Related Articles:

Soil Amendments - Understand exactly what they are and what they do.





Back to How to Kill Weeds


Back from Garden Mulch to home page Easy Butterfly Garden


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