When most people think about mulch, they think about straw or tree mulch, but mulch is defined as any material spread around plants to help enrich the soil. There are many mulch options out there. Some are obvious, some are fairly exotic. Unless you have a green thumb, most homeowners don’t know the differences in mulch products. And there are quite a few different types of mulch. This article aims to break that down. It’s easy when you know how. Here’s the run down on different mulches.

”The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness.” - Dalai Lama

Wood Chips

Wood chips are a popular choice in mulching
Here's an example of typical mulching in a yard. Source: I grow vegetables

You’ve seen this type of mulch before. It’s very commonly used with residential trees and gardens. Usually the wood is brown or tan in color, but sometimes the material can be red. It’s also generally revered as the best wood mulch.

Wood chips retain water quite well, and because they’re organic, they will eventually break down and feed the soil around your plants. This makes for a very nutrient-rich environment. Here’s what mulch does for your garden:

  1. Retains water
  2. Traps heat
  3. Creates pathways
  4. Prevents weeds
  5. Protects roots
  6. Halts soil erosion


Pebbles and gravel make for a very tough mulch
Great for lining boarders of gardens. Source: Big Earth Supply

This is the most common type of mulch for creating pathways and walkways. Pebble and gravel mulch consist of exactly what they sound like, being comprised of tiny rocks that are very easy to organize around your home, if slightly difficult to keep the organization in place over time. Also it’s difficult to mow around if your lawnmower kicks up the tiny pebbles and shoots them out in different directions. Otherwise, look to your home’s color scheme to determine what color mulch looks best. It’s also great for watering the ground below the material.

Straw Mulch

Straw mulch is good for healing burnt grass
Straw can be used for patch work around the home. Source: Garden

Straw mulch is usually used to patch up areas of grass that have seen better days. If the sun hit a patch of your yard harder than the rest, straw is the way to go. It will protect the remaining grass or grass seed from overexposure to sunlight. It’s easily the best type of mulch to use around houses when you noticed your grass had been burned out. Use with discretion as normally healthy grass won’t see any benefits from straw mulch.

Grass Clippings

Grass can also be used as a very nutrient-rich mulch
Grass loves grass mulch especially. Source: Gardening Soul

This multi-purpose mulch is great for lawns that want a little more fertilizer from the mulch material. Moreover, it’s the cheapest form of mulch around, to the point where you can easily make it yourself by simply mowing your lawn. There are many different types of mulch, and this one just so happens to be the easiest to produce. For a light mulch that will help feed your lawn, grass, use grass clippings are a viable option.

Landscape Fabric

Yet another example of the many different kinds of mulch
An effective way to make sure the mulch sticks. Source: Soil Sisters

The fabric is great for homeowners who are far up north and therefore have a shorter growing season. It keeps the plants warmer for longer due to its black top, and retains heat for a while longer. The rain will penetrate the material, but more so towards the end of the lifespan of the material. Landscape fabric is mostly used to warm and protect plants that have a hard time growing in colder climates. When it comes to mulch types’ advantages, disadvantages, and uses, fabric is almost never used in warmer southern states. Also it’s not as good at protecting against weed growth.

Pine Straw

Look at how perfect it turned out!
When all is said and done, you have a fine yard with mulch. Source: Mid Atlantic

When it comes to pine straw, usually you should only use this option when dealing with acidic soil. There are lots of different mulch types and colors, and this is one of the more rarely used ones. Because pine needles are so overwhelmingly acidic, they can be used to treat similar soils and create a more alkaline rich ground. However this is only possible if the pine straw has been thoroughly decomposed, because of the nature of the material. So as long as you’re using it under the right conditions, this mulch can make a huge positive impact on your garden.

Looking for new landscaping ideas for your yard? Want to get some more recommendations on what you can do for natural decor? Get in contact with a professional today!

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