Mulch is a multipurpose material used by professional and hobbyist gardeners alike. Mulch is used to sustain moisture in the soil while keeping it cool and healthy, and helping to keep weeds at bay. In this short guide to mulch and mulching, we’ll look at various organic and non-organic materials, examining their uses and advantages together with the best way to apply mulches for optimum results.
Type of mulch: Leaves
While they might not give the refined aesthetic that some landscapers and gardeners are looking for, fallen shredded leaves make a cheap and effective mulching material. As the leaves decompose, they release valuable nutrients into the soil to help keep it healthy and optimise growing conditions. Unshredded leaves can also be used, but they can stop water and air from permeating as they can mat together in wet weather. Spreading a two to three inch layer of shredded leaves over a landscaping fabric can be a highly effective method of suppressing weeds. Once the leaves decompose, the landscaping fabric still prevents unwanted weed growth.
Type of mulch: Grass clippings
Perhaps one of the most readily available mulches is grass clippings; although with their high water content, grass clippings can break down quickly and become slimy. With that in mind, the two primary uses of grass clippings as mulch tend to be simply leaving clippings on the lawn to add fertility or using them as weed suppression in remote, unplanted areas. If a lawn contains synthetic lawn care products, such as herbicides or pesticides, grass clippings won’t be a suitable mulch material for weed control in plant beds or vegetable patches.
Type of mulch: Newspaper
Old newspaper sheets are another cheap and accessible mulching material. When used together with a weed control landscape fabric, the weed suppression results can be impressive. The newspaper will break down, but with a permeable landscape fabric such as Weedtex or Landtex fitted beneath, weed suppression won’t be compromised once the newspaper decomposes and needs replacing. Using organic or biodegradable options in combination with a landscaping fabric can be the optimum weed control solution.
Type of mulch: Gravel and stone
Gravel, stone, shingle, slate and shells are non-organic mulches that can be used in areas needing good drainage or where some warmth needs to be retained in the ground, such as Mediterranean-style herb gardens. Some gardeners prefer the look of stone for modern gardens. Using a suitably robust landscaping fabric beneath the stones, such as Groundtex that won’t tear beneath the sharp edges, will further enhance weed suppression properties.
Type of mulch: Bark
Bark mulches are popular since they can help give a finished appearance to beds. Bark is suitable for use in beds where there won’t be much digging, as finer organic mulches are better suited to being mixed into the soil. Bark mulches are typically drier and woodier, so they take longer to break down. While this is good for weed suppression, it doesn’t introduce the same nutrients to the soil as other organic mulches.
Using landscaping fabrics with mulch
Landscaping fabrics are best used in combination with organic or biodegradable mulches. For instance, Landtex is an excellent all-round weed suppression fabric that should be covered with a minimum 50mm layer of bark or rounded decorative stone. Not only does the additional layer further protect against unwanted weeds, but it provides a pleasing aesthetic. Choosing a suitable landscaping fabric for the job is vital and will depend on where it will be used in a landscaping scheme. The Growtivation Geo Fabric Product Selector provides an at-a-glance guide to choosing the correct landscape fabric for your project.
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