Mulches for Your Garden

Mulches are protective layers of material spread across exposed soil to:

  1. Keep the soil moist
  2. Smother weeds
  3. Reduce erosion
  4. Keep the soil temperature even around plant roots
  5. Make your garden more attractive.

Before mulching, kill any weeds growing in the soil. You can mulch as soon as weeds and seeds are removed.

Wait to mulch vegetable and flower gardens until the soil warms up in the spring.

Using weed barrier under chips, bark or rocks can deter weed growth. Eventually, debris will accumulate above the weed barrier. This will provide a growing medium for new weed seeds.

Black plastic is not the same as weed barrier. The heat from long term use of plastic will kill beneficial microorganisms that live in the soil. Black or clear plastic is best used in the spring to speed up the growth of vegetables.

A three foot circle of mulch around the base of trees protects them from lawn mowers and string trimmers and gives your yard a finished look. Use edging to keep the mulch out of the

To calculate the quantity of mulch for a project :

  • Multiply the length in feet times the width in feet to get the area in square feet
  • For the area of a circle, multiply 3.14 (pi) times ½ the length across the center (radius) times ½ the length across the center (radius) [π r2]
  • Calculate the cubic feet of mulch by multiplying the area times the thickness of the mulch (0.17feet = 2 inches, 0.25 feet = 3 inches
  • Divide by 27 to get cubic yards.

Keep mulch 6 inches away from tree trunks. Decomposing mulch can expose trees to damaging insects

Compost is decomposed plant material that should be thoroughly mixed into the top six to 12 inches of soil. While it can be spread on bare soil in the winter as a mulch, it needs to be thoroughly mixed into the soil before any plants are added. Winter wind may blow a lot of the expensive compost away.

Shredded leaves tend to blow away rather than stay on the soil. It is better to add them to a compost pile and use them to amend the soil in the spring.

For small projects, bags of mulch are available in garden centers. These can be carried or rolled around in a wheelbarrow. For large projects, loads of mulch can be either picked up or delivered. A pickup truck holds about two cubic yards of mulch.