8 Different Types of Garden Mulch

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Mulch has many benefits for a garden that cannot be supplemented with fertilizer. Mulch is the process by which garden materials are chopped and mixed together to provide nutrients as well as protection for plants, trees, vegetables, and grass.  It also helps retain water, stop weed growth, and regulate the soil temperature. Mulching is also extremely eco-friendly because it takes yard waste and turns it into something that can be used for a lifetime in your garden.  There are two main ways mulch can be acquired; it is either bought from the store or created from recycled materials.  Here is a breakdown of the types and functions of mulch. 

Homemade Mulch

Mulch can add to your garden's plant life as well as give it a nice appealing look, but you shouldn't have to break the bank to use it. Below are a few do-it-yourself options that work just as well as store bought mulch.    

1. Grass Clippings

This is probably the easiest way to mulch your lawn; all that needs to be done is to take the grass catcher off your lawn mower. The grass clippings are extremely beneficial to the health of your lawn and should not be raked; just let them lie where they fall.  The easiest way to do this is by starting on the outside of your lawn and working your way in. Most mowers have a mulching option. If yours doesn't, put the mower on the one third grass clipping mode and it will cut the right amount of grass. 

2.  Leaves

Leaves can also be used to mulch your lawn just as easy as grass. Leaves provide natural nutrients and are good for both grass and plants. To mulch your grass lawn, simply use a lawn mower to chop up the leaves that are on your lawn.  Making your own mulch for your garden out of leaves is a little tougher but still simple. Chop up leaves with a mower or leaf shredder in the fall, and then store them over the winter while continuing to provide the correct moisture to the mulch. In the spring, the mulch will be ready to aid your garden growth.

Ready for Planting Finished Product


3. Wood Chips

Wood clippings are ideal for mulching your garden considering they not only help your plants but also are aesthetically pleasing. The process of collecting wood chips may sound harder than it actually is. If you're chopping, trimming, or having someone trim your trees, you can usually get perfect mulch from the wood chipper. Many tree trimmers offer free wood chips if you call them. 

Store Bought Mulch

There are many options for mulch available at any home and garden store. The benefit of buying mulch is that it's easy and convenient for the homeowner. There is little mess and all that is needed to be done is opening the package and pouring it out. 

1. Eucalyptus

This mulch is made out of eucalyptus trees, which have a couple unique benefits. The first benefit is a pleasing smell created when the trees are cut into mulch. The other benefit is the color that it will bring to your garden. Eucalyptus has a reddish tone that gives your garden area a nice look. 

2.  Cypress

Cypress is one of the cheaper options available for store bought mulch, and it acts as an insect repellant. Unfortunately, sustainability issues make this tree an undesirable choice for environmentally friendly gardeners. 

3. Melaleuca

This tree is a hazard to the wetlands of Florida, taking over the other wildlife in this area. The melaleuca tree is now being used as mulch in order to get rid of the tree from the wetlands and therefore there is an abundance of this type of mulch available.  The benefits are that termites do not feed on this bark as well as it helps the health of the soil your garden. 

4. Rubber

Rubber mulch is manufactured with recycled products and it comes in many different colors. It has the same benefits that wood mulch has for plants. It's different than wood though because it does not harbor any termites or insects as well as the color of the mulch does not fade. Rubber mulch is child safe and is often used as ground cover in playgrounds. 

5. Cocoa

Cocoa mulch is available in most home and garden stores. It comes from the scrapes of commercial cocoa grinding for products such as coffee. This type of mulch is ideal for rose gardens because of the low acidic value it gives the soil. The other benefit is that snails and slugs are said to stay away once cocoa is laid. The one drawback is that toxins in the mulch may harm dogs, similar to chocolate.

Last Updated: August 1, 2011
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About Cooper Chavez Cooper Chavez is a contributing writer for Idealhomegarden.com where he draws from his extensive home improvement background. He is studying Communications at California State University, Northridge, and has taken an interest in do-it-yourself home and garden projects. He has spent many weekends installing appliances, renovating spaces, and landscaping gardens. Idealhomegarden.com allows Cooper to share his passion for home renovation with readers. Cooper grew up in Southern California with a love for every sport he could get his hands on. He tries to get outside every day and go for a lengthy run on roads or trails, and can often be found at the beach or the mountains on the weekends. Even though he's lived in a warm climate his entire life, one of Cooper's favorite seasons is the winter because of his love for skiing.    

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