Mulch can consist of an organic or synthetic material, and it's used to suppress weeds, improve the appearance of your garden, improve moisture retention around plants and trees or boost the soil's fertility. Synthetic mulches include black plastic and landscape fabric, but these mulches don't benefit your soil or the plants you are growing. So, if you are using mulch for any other reason than improving the aesthetics of your property, organic mulch is the better option. Here's an overview of five types of organic mulch:
Bark mulch is long-lasting and does a good job of keeping the soil moist thanks to its capacity to absorb rainwater. It breaks down slowly, so it's best used around shrubs and trees, as it can be time-consuming and fidgety to move the bark aside if you use it in flowerbeds or vegetable gardens, you'll be doing a lot of digging and planting in over the growing season.
Composted manure is rich in nutrients including nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are essential for growing healthy vegetable plants. This type of mulch acts as an effective insulator, so it's a good option for protecting plant roots during the colder months. Just be sure to use composted manure, as fresh manure contains pathogens that can be harmful to you and your plants.
Grass clippings decompose very quickly, and as they do so, they tend to congeal and prevent water passing through into the soil. They are an inexpensive option, and they do a good job of suppressing weeds, but they're not the best type of mulch for plants. Instead, use grass clippings on walkways between flowerbeds and vegetable plots or in more remote parts of your garden where you want to control weeds without much effort.
Modern newspaper printing uses organic dyes, and layers of newspaper acts as an effective mulch for all varieties of plants. Keep the newspaper moist or cover it with a thin layer of another type of organic mulch to hold it in place. A layer of half a dozen sheets can control soil temperatures, prevent soil from drying out and suppressing weeds.
Shredded leaves can be used anywhere and decompose quickly. So, if you don't like the look of them in your garden, you can use them in the autumn and they will have decomposed into the soil and provided a nutrient boost by the time you plant your spring garden. This type of mulch also attracts worms, and worms improve drainage and soil quality when they burrow tunnels.
If you're unsure what type of mulch to choose for your garden, a local landscaper or garden centre can provide advice if you let them know what you grow in your garden and what you're trying to achieve by using mulch.