Best Mulch Types – Choosing The Right Mulch For A Garden

There are many mulch types available for your organic garden, but which is the best mulch for you?

This article explores some of the most popular types of mulch and ultimately comes to a conclusion with what you should use.

What is mulch? It’s really anything that we put on the soil surface to cover the ground.

Landscaping Fabric – Not The Best Mulch

Landscaping fabric is considered part of our mulch because it is often placed on the soil under various types of mulch in order to help control weeds. The cheap stuff doesn’t work very well, but thicker fabric can work for awhile before weeds start to find their way through the cracks or just start on top of the mulch.

Unfortunately, that thick landscaping fabric can also stop water from getting down to the soil, especially on a slope where the water just slides down the fabric to the bottom. It doesn’t take long for the landscape to show signs of suffering in this case.

But the biggest problem with this fabric is that it doesn’t allow organic matter to recycle into the soil. When you put landscaping fabric on, it means your soil doesn’t get to eat anymore. This is definitely not the best mulch for organic gardening purposes.

Soil needs to be consistently replenished with organic matter, so any of the mulch types we choose have to be composed of organic matter.

Soil is replenished in nature and in our gardens when leaves fall in autumn, and since many of our gardens are low in organic matter anyway, it also happens when we intentionally bring in more leaves, straw, compost and other organic matter to improve the soil.

Putting landscaping fabric in the garden stops all of this and slowly kills the fertility and structure of the soil, and everything living in it. The only potential use is on pathways, since we are compacting them anyway and not trying to increase the organic matter. But we need to look elsewhere for the best mulch.

Why Organic Matter Is One Of The Better Types Of Mulch

When it comes to choosing a good mulch, we need to think, what is mulch for?

Weeds. A continuous thick, dense layer of 2”-4” of one of the best mulch types is one of my favorite ways to control weeds because not only does it smother most of them out, it makes the ones that do find their way through so much easier to pull, especially if you have been clever enough to regularly hit the garden (and the mulch) with some water.

Mulch Types Landscaping Fabric
Weed seeds will always be floating in, but a thick mulch will stop them

We have other organic gardening chores to do, so eliminating most of the weeds is a good goal. It may be necessary to kill some tap-rooted or perennial weeds before placing the mulch on top of them.

In addition, maintaining a dense, multi-layer plant cover on your soil consisting of a groundcover below and flowers, shrubs and trees above will stop most weeds from growing.

But the reason organic matter is that best mulch is that it provides a huge number of benefits to your garden. In fact, t is one of the most important things you can do. If you use an appropriate kind of mulch (we’ll get to what is “appropriate” soon), here are the other main benefits:

Soil Health. The best mulch types are persistently and continuously working to improve the health of the soil. They are being broken down by microbes and increasing the organic matter content of the soil.

Organic matter is an incredibly important part of the soil. It improves soil structure, and as it is broken down, its nutrients are releasing into the soil, making it one of the only types of mulch that improves fertility. It prevents compaction from us walking in the garden and erosion from the wind or gravity on steep slopes. It also moderates the soil temperature, which is good for anything (plant, animal and microbe) living there.

Water. Organic matter is the best mulch because it is broken down into humus, which has an incredible ability to hold onto lots of water. But even before it is broken down, mulch holds a lot of water on its own and allows it to more slowly infiltrate into the soil.

It also reduces compaction (and leaching of nutrients) caused by a heavy rain, and erosion that happens when a lot of rain falls and there is runoff. Conversely, when the sun is shining, it also prevents evaporation from the soil surface.

So the best mulch actually improves the biodiversity of your entire soil ecosystem by giving all manner of critters a place to live, food to eat and water to drink. It even looks good in the organic garden if one of the right types of mulch is used.

So what is the best mulch? Well, it has to satisfy all of the conditions in the above article, so we can probably figure it out by a process of elimination. Let’s start with mulches that satisfy very few of our conditions and get rid of them right away:

1. Stones or gravel provide some of the benefits in that they protect the soil from erosion and decrease evaporation, but they do not breakdown and so do not do much to improve soil health. They are not one of the best mulch types.

2. Bark mulch and wood chips are some of the most commonly used mulching materials in the garden. They have some benefits and some potential downsides. They do most of the above things well, but unfortunately, they have a couple of issues making them one of the types of mulch I don’t tend to use.

Avoid These Types Of Mulch
Bark mulch and wood chips are not the best mulch types

The first is that they are very high in carbon and very low in nitrogen. This means that the beneficial microbes in the soil may pull all of the available nitrogen from the surrounding area in order to be able to eat the wood, which often ends up causing a nitrogen deficiency in your soil and plants.

This is more of an issue when you incorporate the mulch into the soil, and doesn’t seem to cause as big of a problem when the mulch is left on top.

Bark in particular is low in nutrients (so it doesn’t improve soil fertility) and often high in toxins (it’s a tree’s first line of defense against pests), so it causes toxicity problems in the soil. It even contains oils that repel water, rather than more appropriate mulch materials that will hold onto water.

Wood chips are a little better, but there is another mulch coming up soon that is more in line with nature.

Twigs and small branches, on the other hand, have been shown to be much more beneficial that wood chips. They contain more nutrition and don’t cause the nitrogen deficiency problems either.

3. Straw and Hay are not the most aesthetically pleasing, but they are fairly good types of mulch. They’re used in organic gardening, but the main issue for most people will be that they’re not always easy to find and they break down so quickly that they have to be applied multiple times a year.

You may not want to use straw or hay from ryegrass as it has toxins in it, and definitely not from grass that has been sprayed with pesticides such as Roundup, which is common in many countries. The difference between straw and hay is that hay has many more seeds, so it will often actually produce weeds.

4. Grass clippings are not the best mulch to use in organic gardening because they get so tightly packed together that they inhibit air circulation. Besides, they are far too important for the soil of your lawn to bring into the garden. They do not contribute to thatch or any other lawn problems, but they provide many benefits so they must be left there. If you have extra though, a tiny amount could be used as a part of your mulch.

5. We’re getting closer to our my favorite of all mulch types, but not yet. With all this talk about organic matter, why not just use compost? A little bit of thought tells us why. It does a lot of things right, but fails to stop the weeds! The same goes with manure, and manure needs to be composted before applied to soil anyway. We should use compost and manure, but they are not really the best mulch. I cover compost in detail in the Smiling Gardener Academy along with cover crops because they are both excellent ways to increase the organic matter content of the soil, but here, we’re looking for the best mulch.

The Best Mulch Types

What is mulch, I mean the best mulch – what is it? It’s organic matter and it’s provided by nature. In a well-designed organic garden, this is one of the only types of mulch that magically appears in our beds in autumn, protecting the soil over winter, and breaking down throughout the following spring and summer until a new batch magically appears in autumn.

Number 1

Of all the mulch types, by far the best for organic gardening is: leaves! They do absolutely everything right. That’s why when we’re designing our gardens we want to make sure to use plants that make a lot of leaves – not just evergreens – and we want to design the beds to catch all of these leaves.

How To Choose The Best Mulch
Leaves are by far the best mulch type

Those that fall on the lawn and non-garden surfaces can be raked into the gardens or mulched right on the lawn.

If you don’t have enough leaves, your neighbors will usually be happy to give you theirs, since they would otherwise have to rake them up and dispose of them. In many cities, you can rake your leaves to the curb and a big truck will come by to pick them up. But why would you want to give the best mulch ever away unless you have too many?

Ironically, some organic gardeners do this and then buy the leaves back as leaf mould in the spring. Leaf mould is just leaves that have been slightly decomposed. Leaf mould is one of the best mulch types, too, but in most cases, the gardener would have done much better to save the money and keep the leaves in the garden over winter where they can protect the soil.

If you have a thick enough layer of leaves in your garden (2″ to 4″ is nice), many weeds will be smothered. You will still get some weeds, but they will be so easy to pull that it won’t matter. You can just drop them back on top of the leaves to become part of the best mulch ever.

Some people think leaves are not one of the most attractive types of mulch for the garden, but is a forest floor unattractive? Or is the forest floor covered in 2 inches of bark?

We’ve been conditioned to think that bark mulch or bare soil is the most aesthetically pleasing, but if you covered your organic garden in a rainbow of autumn leaves, I think you’ll see it differently, especially now that you know all the benefits they provide.

When we remove the leaves, we are breaking nature’s cycle and creating more work for ourselves.

So leaves are the number one best mulch.

Number 2

There is one other organic gardening material that doesn’t take the place of leaves as the ultimate of all the types of mulch, but it is beneficial to have as well. It’s called a living mulch, i.e. plants. A living mulch is a dense plant cover on the soil, especially low growing “cover” crops.

These can be annual crops (also known as green manures) that we plant in our vegetable gardens to protect the soil during certain times of year and to provide organic matter to the soil, or perennial plants (also known as groundcovers) that live permanently in our ornamental gardens underneath our flowers, shrubs and trees.

A good goal is to make sure all of your soil is consistently covered with plants, and cover crops help achieve this goal. Plants send out hormones in the vicinity of their roots that tell weed seeds not to grow.

As long as your organic garden is dense with plants and leaves (the best mulch ever), and your lawn is dense with healthy grass, those weed seeds will mostly stay dormant and you have a whole list of other benefits to which you can look forward.

Mulching All Your Leaves – There Are Exceptions

It is possible to have too many leaves if you have a lot of big trees or if your beds are already covered in groundcovers and you don’t want to totally smother them.

In that case, you may just have to compost them or give some away, to a friend or to the city, although I have mulched 12 inches of leaves into some lawns with great success.

Actually, when I was a kid, I recall my dad would pile a bunch of leaves in the back of the pickup truck (we lived in the country), head down the street to where there were no houses, drop the tailgate, and hit the gas. It was so much fun watching the leaves get caught by the wind and cover the sky like a thousand red and yellow butterflies. In hindsight, I have no idea why we did this, but it was fun at the time.

I know someone reading this is wondering about oak leaves. I’ve never had a problem with the fact that oak leaves don’t break down quickly. I’ve always enjoyed that about them because it just means my mulch stays around longer. And nope, they don’t acidify the soil. But again, if you have too many, don’t force it.

Feel free to ask a question or comment below.

178 Comments

  1. Jessica on November 9, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Thank you for this article. I’ve learn so much about mulch that I didn’t know. Wood mulch bad. Landscaping fabric bad. Leaves good! So much easier, too.

    • Aniie Dravid on April 10, 2015 at 10:25 am

      yess… leaves are good!!Aniie | Works @ mulching

  2. D-hebert on January 15, 2011 at 4:45 am

    We’ve started a neighborhood garden this past November by building beds with cardboard, leaves, coffee grounds, leaves & more layers. Any problem with covering the 3 foot pathways between the beds with a layer of cardboard covered with about 5″ of woodchips?? Debbie

    • Phil on January 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Not a problem at all, Debbie. That’s a great solution for pathways.

  3. Heidi Marion on March 9, 2011 at 5:14 am

    Goddess, mulching makes me feel so right! I could write an R&B song about mulching.The deeper you goThe better you growOh mulch you make me feel so fine.Marvin Gaye eat your heart out.

    • Terry Obright on June 30, 2013 at 5:47 am

      that is funny girl 🙂

  4. Mablec on March 12, 2011 at 4:15 am

    How about black walnut leaves? The woods beside our garden has a variety of trees, but also a lot of black walnut trees. I know black walnuts produce a substance that prevents many other plants from growing near them, and the sawdust of the black walnut is hazardous to horses stabled on it, but do the leaves cause any problems? I’ve wanted to harvest leaves from the edge of the woods for the garden, but have’nt wanted to take the chance of the black walnut preventing my veggies from growing!

    • Phil on March 15, 2011 at 1:08 am

      Hi Mablec,I have some experience dealing with walnut trees, but hadn’t thought muchabout using the leaves as mulch. I do know that they contain the toxiccompound (juglone), too, so I would stay away from them. I’ve heard thejuglone even survives the composting process, so I think the leaves are bestleft in the woods.Phil

      • Kathleen on February 26, 2016 at 1:49 am

        In Missouri , the walnuts lose their leaves first usually starting in August and finished by mid September. Most of them are blown away or chopped into the lawn. The bigger ” problem” are the stems … And then, every other year they drop walnuts ” everywhere”…

  5. Diana on March 13, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Thanks, Phil. I use my bagging mower in the woods and just expanded my garden with newspaper and loads of leaves! SOOO glad to live in the country where the mulch supply is endless.

  6. Andy on August 6, 2011 at 3:34 am

    Thanks so much all the info.  These lessons are great.  One question though…I have read that it is important to remove fallen leaves around fruit trees because leaving them there encourages pests and diseases in the spring.  I can certainly rake them up and put them in other parts of the garden or compost them, but what are your thoughts about just leaving them where they fall as a tree mulch? Thanks again–Andy

    • Phil on August 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

      Hi Andy, great question. If your soil and plants are healthy, pests and diseases won’t cause problems. In inorganic fruit tree orchards where they spray chemicals and totally decimate the soil food web, they will be. In that case, they may have to remove the leaves, although in my view they would be better off just not having an orchard. If we look to nature, nobody rakes up leaves. It’s very important to have a leaf layer for the dozens of benefits it provides.

  7. Koru Ora on February 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    thank you for this comprehensive/comparative mulching topic Phill. very much appreciated. i’ve tried maple leaves last fall. but they are still on the surface and fly around  when the weather is dry. also it covers the surface of the little plans and protects sun shine… so they are not growing much. any suggestions?

    • Phil on February 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      If your plants are very small, you can only have a thin layer of mulch until they grow. It’s very helpful if you can keep the mulch layer moist, not only to keep it from blowing away, but for other benefits.

  8. Frank yeo on February 11, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Hi Phil, my plantation will be 3 years old soon, and with 20 acres there will be lots of palm leaves, do I shred them first before using as mulch. they are not toxic as I know goats loves to eat them. At my place its windy, the newspaper will be blown away very soon, and dont want to use wood mulch to hold them down. Thanks a lot 

    • Phil on February 12, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      You don’t have to shred them, unless that will help stop them from blowing away. If wind becomes a problem you can shred them and compost them with goat manure for a couple of months – then apply them to the soil.

  9. Allen on March 15, 2012 at 1:32 am

    Thanks! Pine straw okay for the organic garden?

    • Phil on March 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm

      Hi Allen, I’m not too knowledgeable about the chemical makeup of pine needles. I wouldn’t put 2-4 inches in a food garden, but I would definitely do it in a garden with plants that would be used to that kind of mulch. My preference would be to mix it with leaves for mixed ornamental gardens.

  10. Guillaume on April 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

    I mow the oak leaves and grass together on the lawn. I then put the mixture into a compost bin. I water it well as I put it in the bin. I leave it for 6 months. When I remove the bin and examine the compost I find that it is full of worms, just like my wormeries, but I have added no worms.If the worms like it then it must be good compost.Guillaume

    • Phil on April 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Sounds wonderful!

  11. Jane on April 30, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    This is fascinating! Thank you. Are you suggesting we should leave mown grass on the lawn to feed the lawn? I.e. Should we remove the grass clipping bagger from the lawn mower?Jane

    • Phil on May 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      Hi Jane, absolutely! Grass clippings are the most important “fertilizer” for your lawn. The only time I take them away is if I have a whole lot and then I can use them in a compost or sheet mulch.

  12. Zaini on May 8, 2012 at 2:18 am

    Hi Phil,I’m from Malaysia and right here I’m using coconut fibers as one way of mulching. Not just me as all the nurseries are using it as well. The one thing that I’ve found out that it turns out to harbor a lot of living things underneath e.g small bugs, insects etc that I don’t know whether it’s beneficial or doing harm to my plants… but so far all my plants are healthy and the mulching reduces my watering session significantly. I don’t have to water my plants for almost 2 weeks with mulching depends on the weather. Thanks for the tips Phil.

    • Phil on May 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Hi Zaini, I don’t talk about coconut mulch much because it’s not available here, but from what I know, it is a good mulch, and those living things are probably good for your garden, as most living things are. So it sounds like that mulch is bringing you many benefits, which is great.

  13. Robert on August 7, 2012 at 4:49 am

    Phil,I recently watched this film and was blown away about how easy organic gardening can be. With some initial hard work, over time things become easier and more productive. Although the gentleman in this film advocates wood chips. This isn’t a very long film and you can forward if you need to, but I was hoping you could look at it and explain why he is stresses using wood chips where you are saying it is not a good mulch. Forward to 9:35. He begins explaining there. Thank you in advance for your time. -roberthttp://backtoedenfilm.com/

    • Phil on August 7, 2012 at 11:25 am

      Yes, I’ve seen part of the film. I disagree with some of what he says, but mostly it’s good advice. The wood chips will work for him because he has plenty of humus in the soil after all those years of tilling in organic matter. So the wood chips won’t cause big problems there.Indeed if you piled on 2 feet of wood chips even on really poor soil and came back 10 years later, the soil will probably be nice. It’s just those first years when the chips are being broken down that soil nitrogen is tied up and a couple of other little issues can show up.

    • AbsolutelyTrue on March 26, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      I would worry about termites if I did the back to eden method (my house is wood) … so any wood chips I get go in the compost.

  14. EW on August 13, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    very good advice as usual phil — mulch is incredibly valuable on gardens and landscapesas far as a warning about plastic fabric mulch — it has proved to be the WORST CHOICE i’ve made in 22 years of gardening at my current residence. i put a couple layers under some wood chipped paths a long time ago, and that worked ok for about 6 months — followed by more than 20 years of constant little pieces of black plastic trash floating up to the top of mulch — forever. my worst nightmare, and of my own making — please don’t think you’ll be spared from your own cleverness. plastic mulch will haunt you forever — totally not worth it…avoid at all costs!

    • Phil on August 15, 2012 at 1:58 pm

      haha, ya, it does seem like a great idea at the time doesn’t it? i understand why people put it down. thanks for echoing my warning.

  15. Rgoodha on September 7, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    I have been enjoying your posts, and I’m reading your book.  I have learned SO much from you.  Thank you, thank you!

    • Phil on September 8, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying everything.

  16. Cynthia on September 21, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you for the great information you have provided on mulching.  That is one thing I have been so-so about but will now look to improve in my garden.  I have seen Pecan Shells as mulch in gardens.  It seems like a good idea, and here in Texas there are lots of pecans.  What are your thoughts on these?

    • Phil on September 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      Sounds like a great idea to me.

  17. SGoth on September 24, 2012 at 9:43 pm

    I seeded red clover this summer and it makes a very thick mat of green plants.  One part of my soil is very thin, because someone used landscape fabric before I moved in, and I was wondering if I should use hay mulch (that is all I can get right now) with newspaper over the red clover so the clover will rot and increase the soil depth and tilth in this part of my yard?  Sandra   

    • Phil on September 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

      Hi Sandra, that sounds like a good idea to me. I assume your red clover is an annual that will die over the winter anyway? If so, you may not need to bother with the newspaper. If not, you still may not need the newspaper if you cover it well with hay – and you can always take the hoe to it in the spring. I’m not sure what the best method would be, but you’re on the right track.

      • polly on June 6, 2014 at 3:31 am

        I live on a real farm. We have straw and we have hay. A lot of folks do not understand the difference. STRAW has a hollow stem and what is left after the GRAIN crop is DRY and harvested. Most folks know WHEAT STRAW but there is OAT and BARLEY straw also. The problem with straw is that you WILL have some grain seed in it. That WILL sprout and you are most likely to have wheat, oats or barley etc sprout up. This can be turned in for green manure and at least the oats will be killed by a frost. Winter wheat will not be killed by frost but spring wheat (straw sprouts) will. HAY is a totally different story. IT IS GRASS. I would NEVER use hay unless i wanted to plant grass. If you have hay COMPOST THE STUFF. Hay has a solid stem (hence does not hold moisture like straw does) and it is full of grass seed. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED :O)

        • polly on June 6, 2014 at 3:32 am

          opps.. sorry .. this is my first post. i see i put in under the wrong conversation. it should go under the one about mulching with hay… maybe you can move it as i can not seem to find a way to do so

        • Phil on June 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm

          Yes, you’re right, I mentioned that in the article, too. The grass would make a good cover crop that can be turned under, but I always use straw.

  18. Melissa on October 26, 2012 at 3:17 am

    Great post Phil. A question about manure composting. If I have a truck load of manure dumped at my place and don’t touch it for a year, has it been composted ? Thanks. Melissa

    • Phil on October 27, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      Hmm, technically I don’t know how biologically and nutritionally diverse the aged manure would be, but if it doesn’t smell bad, a year is enough time to mellow it out and use it.

      • Melissa on October 28, 2012 at 6:18 am

        Thanks Phil. Melissa

  19. janice on November 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    We have lots of maple leaves but they have big black spots on them. Would they be good for garden mulch or are the black spots a disease?

    • Phil on November 10, 2012 at 6:22 pm

      The black spots are a disease, but in my view, it’s still entirely fine to use it as mulch. Getting rid of the leaves wouldn’t get rid of the disease anyway, so you might as well still get the benefits from the leaves.

      • Linda on January 21, 2013 at 6:17 pm

        I have noticed that the non native Norway maples in our area get large black spots on their leaves but the native sugar maples do not.

  20. Roberto on November 21, 2012 at 7:24 am

    Are you in favor with the self watered in a used plastic water bottle plants, in my opinion less (not in the open ground) soil plants don’t grow well rather the size of the plants is minimized. I will follows your type of mulching, Thanks your a big help.

    • Phil on November 24, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      I think it’s a fun project, but if you have a place to grow in soil, make sure that’s optimized first. Then it’s great to grow a bit of food inside, especially during winter, but it’s much better to use bigger containers if your goal is harvesting much of any food.

  21. Lorraine on December 2, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Thanks Phil…..now I am looking at the fallen leaves very differently.Last winter we mulched them and raked a layer on our flower beds.What an improvement in the condition of the soil.This winter I am going to add a layer to the lawn.What a benefit….I just never looked at them as anything but a PAIN……

  22. Wendy on December 27, 2012 at 7:34 am

    Great article. I love to mulch with leaves, too. In fact, I have in the past 2 years had the city trucks that collect the leaves dump a load at my house. I have also gone in the neighborhood and collected leaves and dragged them to my house. Sometimes I wonder if the leaves slow down the growth of my plants? I think putting on the goat manure and straw helped a lot this year to balance out the nutrients of the leaves. Last year, itt was the best garden, I did not weed except for a little at the very beginning of the season. Since I had access to a lot of straw and goat manure I put down one layer, then since I don’t like to weed and grass was coming up through the mulch, I put down some paper grocery bags and put on another thick mulch. It worked really well. I really had very little problems with bugs eating my plants, too! A side benefit of the mulch was that I had to water a lot less!

    • Phil on December 31, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      Thanks for your story Wendy. You’ve shown how mulch brings many benefits. It’s possible that the leaves could slow down the growth of your plants if you don’t have enough nitrogen in your soil, which is one reason why the goat manure would have helped.

  23. Sharon Prentice Burns on December 27, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    What about Spanish Moss as mulch –

    • Phil on December 31, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      You mean that hangs from your trees? I’ve never tried it, but I suppose it would make a wonderful mulch.

  24. Dotno on January 12, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Thanks for sharing the knowledge! Do you have any cover crop and mulch suggestions for a windy and sub-arctic area where leaves would get blown away, and many species of plants cannot survive?

    • Phil on January 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      I don’t know about cover crops in that cold of an area, but the very hardy legumes are: hairy vetch, Polara and Arctic sweetclovers, Austrian winter peas. The hardiest grass is probably cereal rye. Wheat can be hardy, too. A grass should be planted with a legume to protect the legume.

  25. Linda on January 21, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    My only disagreement is about hay. I have used only hay, preferring alfalfa, for about 10 years and have never had weeds grow from it. I usually use it in full flake thickness. I would consider it superior to straw as it was green when cut, retaining the sugars, and is the nutrition that the horse would eat whereas straw has no nutrition especially when it has not been pretreated by the horse. I stay away from cow manure and anything cow due to the many shots they get.

    • Phil on January 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      Hey is definitely more nutritious. I have had trouble with weed seeds, even with hay sometimes, but perhaps if you use the full flakes and don’t disturb them, those seeds won’t germinate.

  26. Mae on January 23, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Hi. i just want to know that besides using dried papaya leaves as mulch, what other good leaves can be used for plants?

    • Phil on January 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      I use everything, whatever I have on my property.

  27. scar955 on February 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Phil,I just came across your blog last week and I love it! Is Feb too late to put leaves on my garden? I have leaves in the yard from the fall. Also, how do you keep the leaves from blowing away?Thanks!Newby (aka: Rob)

    • Phil on February 11, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Sure, you can put the leaves on any time. If the garden is in a very windy spot, it may be necessary to construct a low 2 foot fence from chicken wire and some kind of sticks or stakes.

  28. Shannon on March 2, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Is it better or necessary to break the leaves down like with a vacuum mulcher before using leaves as a mulch?

    • Phil on March 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      I actually like to keep them whole so they last longer.

  29. Stan on March 21, 2013 at 11:12 pm

    oak leaf mulch helps control slugs and snails. They contain lots of tannin which is an astringent and make their ”feet” go stiff and hard, and they cant move very well.

    • Phil on March 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm

      Cool, had never heard this one before.

  30. Vicki on March 25, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Leaves are great but don’t use Black Walnut Tree leaves or any part of the Black Walnut Tree. They carry a poison that can kill many plants especially vegetable garden plants like tomatoes.

    • polly on June 6, 2014 at 3:39 am

      I have many huge black walnut trees in my yard. Actually about an acre. The leaves fall as they may and clog up in my flower beds etc. I never remove them and they do not seem to poison anything. It would be interesting to have them tested if you are concerned about them being a poison to your plants. I have not experienced that here .

  31. Chuck Chipner on March 27, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Thank you so much for all of this great information. I have been meaning to pick up some landscape mulch in Salt Lake County, but I keep forgetting. I really need to write myself a reminder so that I remember to pick it up.

  32. DWick on April 5, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    What about pine needles in compost or mulch. Nothing much grows under my pine trees when they shed the needles. Just wondering is to much pitch or something for Gardens?

    • Phil on April 11, 2013 at 2:19 am

      A little bit of pine needles in compost or mulch is great, but using it as the primary source isn’t a great idea (except of course for under your pine trees).

  33. Patricia Garcia-Jobe on April 10, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I just recently moved into a new townhouse and inherited some beautiful gardens of mostly bulbs and tea roses. (not sure what is in back yard yet) I am not an experienced gardener but would like to atleast maintain what is there. We removed all the old mulch because of the weird smell it gave off plus it was old and did not look healthy. Now I am not sure what to put down in its place. Most of the soil is Maryland clay if that helps. I want it to look nice but be a healthy area for both plants and family.

    • Phil on April 13, 2013 at 4:15 pm

      I think the article explains my thoughts on this. Leaves are the best and they look very natural. Straw is fine, but doesn’t look as natural. Wood chips or bark mulch aren’t the end of the world, and for some reason people seem to think they look natural, but really they don’t.

  34. Woody on April 20, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I have flower beds around my pool and I have used a shredded bark, but when the wind blows it ends up in the pool. What would be the best mulch to use that would complement my garden and not my pool?

    • Phil on April 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm

      For that, I would ideally start with a layer of leaves and then cover that with some heavier wood chips or even bark that won’t blow away. Or you could even go with big round stones, but I’d really want to see a thick layer of leaves under there.

  35. Pat on April 24, 2013 at 12:08 am

    I just put black mulch around my blueberry bushes and now I am wondering if that is a good mulch to use on fruit bushes.

    • Phil on April 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm

      Why is it black? Is it colored black with toxic dyes? Probably not ideal in that case.

  36. Jennifer on May 2, 2013 at 3:28 am

    what do you know about Popple leaves? the ones in my yard are huge, I’d say at least 6 inches wide and they rarely break down. Can they be used as mulch? Should I shred them up first before laying them? Thanks for your input.

    • Phil on May 6, 2013 at 1:19 pm

      I’ve never been able to find all that much information on the specific nutritional or other characteristics of specific leaves, but personally, I love having leaves that break down slowly, even oak leaves. I am surprised that your popple leaves don’t break down fast, but I’ve never paid much attention to them when I see them in nature. You can certainly shred them, but you don’t have to – there’s usually no rush to break them down.

  37. keith on May 20, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    would eel grass that you see along the bays and ocean be good. i guess it has to be washed off though for the salt.

    • Phil on May 23, 2013 at 11:29 pm

      I bet there are some benefits. It is a plant whereas kelp is an algae, so there are major differences, but if it takes in sea water, it probably has good nutrition

  38. bob Younker on May 31, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    We live in a retirement (active living) community that requires bark to cover all areas without vegetation. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    • Phil on June 3, 2013 at 9:51 am

      I have no problem with that – it works well for paths.

  39. Cheryl on June 4, 2013 at 1:06 am

    What would you use to improve the aesthetics under a huge, mature maple tree where nothing but weeds will grow? The canopy is so large that it makes a great outdoor sitting area, but it’s not very attractive right now. We considered filling to the drip line with stones, then learned that we might destroy the tree by denying it water. We considered rubber mulch, then learned it would probably leach toxins. Would you use wood chips in a space like that? We’ll have plenty of leaves in the fall, but a base of leaves wouldn’t be very attractive either, which makes me think of a leaf mulch on top of the soil and a spread of wood chips over the leaves. What do you think?

    • Phil on June 5, 2013 at 11:18 am

      Yes, a thick leaf mulch and then a thin layer of wood chips will be fine. And there are plants that will grow under maples – if you go into a forest in your area you might get some good clues.

      • Cheryl on June 7, 2013 at 4:29 am

        Thank you!!

  40. Kim Fairbairn-Baker on June 15, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Hi Thanks for the information you generously share. I really enjoy it! One quick question – we have recently needed to get some camellia trees trimmed and have mulched them. Are they safe to compost Phil and how long will they take to rot to be used as a sheet mulch? Thanks

    • Phil on June 16, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Yes, you can compost them or put them right in a sheet mulch. You can mix them with some nitrogen (manure, green grass clippings and weeds, food scraps). They will probably still take at least a couple of years to break down, but that’s okay.

  41. Mario on June 20, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Excellent information on mulch. Can you mulch with the cuttings from ornamental grasses?

  42. Jonathan on July 3, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    Just wondering, what about paper weed barriers? My neighbor swears by his paper fabric, it’s made of recycled material, and breaks down when he turns it over at the end of the season.

    • Phil on July 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Yes, that’s better as long as nutritious organic matter (compost/leaves/etc.) is making its way into the soil at some point during the year.

      • Jonathan on July 8, 2013 at 2:17 pm

        Great, thanks. Love the site, it’s been a huge help to this newbie.

  43. Tom on August 16, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I’m excited to just throw a bunch of leaves into the garden this fall… but I have a question about that, though. If you don’t recommend rototilling it into the soil, how do you go about planting your garden the following spring? Will the veggies just pop up through the leaves?

    • Phil on August 18, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      Some of the leaves will break down a bit, but if you plan to plant from seed, you do need to pull the leaves aside and save them for later, or compost them, or put them into a perennial bed or something.

      • Tom on August 19, 2013 at 3:03 pm

        Sounds good… Then, do I just throw my compost on top of the leaves or should I try to work it in?

        • Phil on August 22, 2013 at 5:30 pm

          Either way has merits.

  44. Barbara Ferraby on September 6, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    What about walnut tree leaves? I always thought they were toxic to a number of plants…

    • Phil on September 9, 2013 at 11:30 am

      Yes, walnut tree leaves are toxic to many plants, so they’re not the best mulch for use throughout the whole garden.

  45. Ian McAllister on September 7, 2013 at 5:36 am

    Several things are different here in Western Australia.For a start, the earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) isn’t here. You can use manure worms instead, as long as your compost layer is deep enough. There were 11ft long worms that burrowed 6 ft deep, but farmers and builders made them extinct.Instead termites are very active in many parts of the country, so if you use wood chips or sawdust, the termites will drag them down into their underground cities. However, in some parts of Western Australia the termites eat the roots of your plants, so it is very difficult to grow anything at all.My last house had soil with pH 10.5 because of all the builder’s lime scattered around. So I had a hen run with pine needles, which are very acid, in deep litter. The hens kept scratching the litter all day, so that it was soon fine powder, and they fertilized it as well. At the end of the year I would transfer all their bedding to the garden, and it brought the pH down to slightly below 7.There are severe water restrictions in this house (10 minutes on Monday and 10 minutes on Friday and only hand-watering at all other times) and the pH near my house is 10.5 but it changes to 3.5 in a line half-way down my garden.I was interested to read that grasses grow where there is too little lime. Is builder’s lime not available to plants? My garden grows waist-high grass, and no broad-leaved plants can co-exist. I wanted a large crop of nettles (to eat) but one nettle plant that was there vanished. Even comfrey plants can’t survive in my soil, and I thought nothing could kill them. I don’t need to worry about garden mint spreading and taking control, because my soil kills it.

    • Phil on September 9, 2013 at 11:35 am

      There are definitely exceptions to the grass-lime rule. The way to find out what your soil needs (assuming it’s a chemical imbalance, which is indeed likely) would be to get a soil test done from a good, organic lab, such as http://www.nutri-tech.com.au/p… and follow their recommendations.

  46. Diana on September 7, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Great info as always! Thanks for your emails!! We are new to gardening but figured out last year with a surplus of leaves in the yard that they would make good mulch. We shredded the oak leaves and it was beautiful through most of the winter. But we don’t have year round leaves for mulching so my question is in regard to a northern Texas yard. Summers are hot hot hot so I like the idea of ground cover in the beds. Does it make sense to use leaves/pecan shells in the fall/winter and plant perrenial ground cover that would come back each spring? Thanks!

    • Phil on September 9, 2013 at 11:36 am

      Yes, that’s a great idea, the perfect way to do it really.

  47. Fayrae on September 7, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Hi! I just read your wonderful article and I’ve done the 2 sins – bark with a bit a leaves supplied from a tree company and fabric! What would you suggest I do now? I’ve had this done through out my whole garden.

    • Phil on September 9, 2013 at 11:40 am

      There’s certainly no need to rush out and pull everything out right away, but if your goal is to have a very healthy garden (especially if you want to grow very healthy food, although it sounds like your garden is more ornamental), the landscaping fabric will be detrimental in the long run. So you’ll have to decide if the decrease in weeds by the fabric is worth the cutting off of nature’s natural recycling system. As for the bark, it’s not the end of the world at all, just not my favorite.

  48. Judy on September 8, 2013 at 5:22 am

    Hi Phil: During the winter, I remove the landscaping cloth and green manure with red clover, turning it under in the spring before I plant, and I also compost and turn it into the soil by hand. My problem is that I have a number of cats. I started using landscaping cloth because if I use mulch, my garden turns into a giant kitty litter box. Aside from being disgusting, it also contaminates my food with cat feces. I mostly grow Mediterranean vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, beans, squash, eggplant, and except for the beans, I use plant starts. With our severe draught in Northern California, I don’t water the entire garden during the summer, just the immediate area around each plant. The landscaping cloth actually directs the water to the plants. I guess I could mulch the garden after planting and then cover the mulch with landscaping cloth, although, if I’m not watering in between the plants , it isn’t going to get fully incorporated into the soil until I turn it under before I plant my cover crop. I really don’t know how else to avoid having mulch turn into a giant litter box (yuck).

    • Phil on September 9, 2013 at 11:44 am

      It sounds like what you’re doing is just fine. You’re still getting organic matter into the soil each year, so the cloth during the growing season won’t be a problem.

  49. Coleen on September 11, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    We have been told by gardeners in our area not to use the leaves from our weeping birch trees in mulch or compost because they contain something that would affect the growth of our garden plants. No one has been able to tell me what that is. I haven’t been able to find out more in my research. They are healthy, big old trees that produce lots of potential! Any reason I shouldn’t use them?

    • Phil on September 16, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      I’ve never heard of birch leaf toxicity. Certainly walnuts, but not birch. Still, it could be. I would tend to compost them anyway, perhaps for a couple of years, as the microbes could break down most of those toxins.

  50. Dan on October 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    I try to put as many leaves as possible in the garden, but I never harvest enough to cover everything. So I was thinking, would it be okay to purchase compost in the fall to cover all the flower beds, and then cover everything with bark mulch like we normally do in the spring? I was also thinking of putting Milorganite down on all the beds before putting the bark mulch down in the spring. I know you don’t like to use bark mulch, but I still live at home and my parents love the look of bark mulch so I’m trying to work with it.I don’t grow any food (one reason is our yard is almost 100% shaded), so I’m not worried about the possibility of the Milorganite impurities tainting food (although they claim it is safe for vegetable gardens).

    • Phil on October 15, 2013 at 5:06 pm

      Yes, you can cover the flower beds with compost and then bark, although it would be nice if you put the bark on in the fall to protect the soil over winter. Even better than bark would be wood chips. I personally wouldn’t use Milorganite anywhere just because I don’t want to be adding toxins to my property or to anyone’s property, so I recommend just a quality compost.

  51. Marti on October 23, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    What about pine needles?

    • Phil on October 27, 2013 at 10:11 pm

      Yes, they can be useful as a mulch. In theory they’d be best under pine trees and other plants that would associate with pine in nature that are used to the toxins they contain.

      • Marti on October 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm

        Which toxins? I have my strawberries mulched with pine needles and they seem to be doing well.

        • Phil on October 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm

          Strawberries actually evolved in a woodland setting, so perhaps they’re okay with coniferous needles. But otherwise, by toxins, I don’t mean poisons that will kill anything in sight – just ones that can change soil chemistry to potentially cause unfavorable conditions for some plants and other living things.

  52. Marti on October 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    I have been mulching for a couple years now and have no worms except a few gigantic ones. I have come to realize that the tunnels I keep finding in my raised beds are created by moles – who eat worms. How do I get rid of moles? I’ve read that Castor oil will send them away for awhile. Will this hurt plants? Has anyone had success?

    • Phil on October 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      I’ve never had to deal with them in a serious way. I have heard the castor oil solution as well, but never tried it.

  53. anthony on October 31, 2013 at 3:03 am

    wood chips only deprive the plants of nitrogen if they are mixed into the soil. Left on top as mulch they are no significant problem.

    • Phil on November 4, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      For the most part, I think you’re right. The research often agrees, too. But I have seen landscapes suffer after the addition of wood chips as mulch, which is why I tend to lean to leaf mulch, which is more in line with nature.

  54. Pete Singh on November 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Thanks Phil great article, how about mulching with black bark, do you think this particular bark carrying any toxin? Pete.

    • Phil on November 4, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      I’m not a fan of the mulches that are colored with dyes. It’s one of those things where I can’t say for sure that it will cause any major problems, but I just stay away from them in principle. There are some black mulches that are colored with charcoal, though, so that might be okay.

  55. Susan on December 31, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    I used to shred the hedge clippings from my cherry laurel but last year I just stuffed them in plastic sacks, which I punched holes in with my fork. I hide them in the hedge. Six months later I can use them as mulch, I just pull out any of the remaining twigs if they bother me. When the worms move in it’s ready.Picking up leaves is what the lawnmower does for me now, shreds it too!

    • Phil on January 4, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      Sounds like a good plan to me…

  56. Susan on January 3, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Does Mulch increase the slug population? In rainy England organic market gardeners advise against mulching as they get too many slugs. Instead, they top-dress with compost.

    • Phil on January 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Yes, mulch provides a good home for slugs. It provides many more benefits, but in some cases (like if your garden is located in rainy shade), you may have to do without it, at least when plants are seedlings. Or just grow healthier plants and the slugs won’t cause much of a problem…

  57. Newtomulching on March 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    How do you get the leaves act as mulch? Don’t you have to put in in some sort of a grinder or something

    • Phil on March 18, 2014 at 1:40 am

      Nope, whole leaves are great as they are.

  58. AbsolutelyTrue on March 26, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I’m so excited about a new patch I will be planting in this year. I collected truckloads of leaves 2 years ago and spread them waist deep in the area. 🙂

  59. Luke on March 31, 2014 at 10:12 pm

    I personally like the look that wood mulch gives to my garden each year. I’ve heard there’s a mix of leaves and wood mulch to get a mix of both worlds. What are the differences in retaining moisture in arid climates for leaves versus wood mulches?http://www.bearslashing.com/be

  60. ladyfortuna on April 2, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    I had heard that leaves have something in them that inhibits growth so that its parent plant doesn’t have competition.

    • Phil on April 3, 2014 at 2:05 am

      Ya, there’s probably a bit of that, more so in some leaves than others. But if you look at a deciduous forest floor, it gets covered in leaves every autumn and the perennials and shrubs still do fine the next spring. Nature seems to have it figured out somehow. It certainly does make sense when designing an ornamental garden to group plants together that would be found together in their native ecosystems, because they’ve learned to coexist.

      • jane on June 6, 2014 at 3:13 pm

        Our area is very windy. Leaves that are put down blow away. How do we keep them in place?

        • Phil on June 7, 2014 at 2:35 am

          Fencing, branches, plants – anything to block them from blowing away. It can certainly be tricky on a very windy site.

  61. Gary Puntman on May 23, 2014 at 8:55 pm

    I want to get some mulch for my backyard. My wife and I are landscaping and want to make sure our yard looks good for the summer. We have been wondering which type of mulch is the best and will last the longest. We want something that is full of nutrients.Gary Puntman | http://www.mossrock.com.au

  62. Marcus Fillion on June 12, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks for the information! I’ve seen a lot of the landscaping fabric used in my area, but I was always wary because it looks so bad when it starts to rip up. Now I’ll just use organic mulch instead! We have a horse, so that shouldn’t be too difficult…Marc | http://www.rt9hardscape.com/mulches.htm

  63. Russ Verkest on June 30, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    What about “live oak” tree leaves? These trees are very prominent in my area of central Texas. they are unique in that they shed their leaves in the spring, not the fall. The leaves are very coarse. I put them into my composter 2 years ago, and they were still pretty much together earlier this year. I have been using straw as mulch, which I like, but if the live oak leaves are superior to straw, and last longer, then I have a humongous supply of mulch, as well as my neighbors who would absolutely love for me to rake/take their leaves. Please confirm that these types of oak leaves are more than acceptable. Thanks!

    • Phil on July 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm

      Yep, I use a lot of oak leaves and have never had any issues. They don’t acidify the soil as is often thought. I say go for it!

      • Russ Verkest on July 1, 2014 at 3:11 pm

        Very good! Will definitely go for it! Many thanks!

  64. Cj on July 1, 2014 at 12:41 am

    Hi Phil,I have watched the videos I got in my email. Thanks for sharing this wealth of information. I started a garden in the spring and it is covered in weeds, I want to start mulching my beds. Is pine needles a good mulch for a vegetable garden? It is available here at a reasonable price.Thanks, CJ

    • Phil on July 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      In theory, it’s not great. The have chemicals in them that aren’t great for vegetables. Not sure how big of a problem this would cause though. You could use some pine needles, but I’d rather see straw/leaves in there too.

  65. Sampson Greenovich on July 3, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I have been wondering if mulch will biodegrade over time. I wonder this because I just installed it in my yard and there seem to be a lot of bugs in it. Will I have to replace the mulch after a few years or just buy more?http://www.mossrock.com.au/

  66. John Howard on July 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    I have been looking for a mulch supplier because I want to make my yard look good. I think it would be really nice to put down mulch in the flower beds and around the trees. I just need to know what colors of mulch are out there so I can decide what to put in. http://www.mccollumtrucking.com/gallery

  67. Gary Puntman on July 28, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    I need to get some mulch for my landscaping. Thanks for posting about these different types of mulch. I am trying to get the best type for what I have planned in my yard.Gary Puntman | http://www.mossrock.com.au

  68. wrestling12 on July 28, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    My mom wants to have a really nice garden this next year. We are just trying to find ways to help the produce grow faster. Hopefully we will be able to find wholesale mulch in Melbourne. http://www.mossrock.com.au

  69. James Rose on July 30, 2014 at 1:05 am

    i just really dont like soil coveredif we shouldn’t till and add only the minimal ferts then why anythinga person who can pull weeds has no business out in a gardenjust buy a picture of one. when will we learn mother nature know and has done it right for millions of years

  70. Anita Mas on August 1, 2014 at 3:59 am

    I’m a big fan of not having to deal with weeds very much. It’s great. I’ll have to get some mulch for that.Anita Mas | http://www.downtoearthgarden.com.au/pavers

  71. Patch on August 8, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    Hello Phil, I have heard people using layers of newspaper, topping it with leaves and then adding gardening soil on top. When it ‘settles’ – usually 3-6 months – then they will plant their tomatoes and peppers. I’m guessing the ink on newspapers today is vegetable-dyes but wonder What is your opinion of this? TIA.

  72. Phil H on September 8, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Phil,Our live oaks are reported to produce an acidic mulch. Does this make sense and do you have a rule of thumb on how to balance it? Or, should I just get a soil test?Second question: I brewed the EM as per your instructions. What’s the best way to store it? Should it be refrigerated (like beer), protected from light, kept above room temp etc?

    • Phil on September 9, 2014 at 11:17 am

      Hi Phil, the ‘acidic mulch’ from oaks is a myth. I use oak leaves all throughout my vegetable garden. A soil test is often a useful tool, and your soil may be acidic, but don’t worry about the leaves.Store the EM at room temperature, out of direct sunlight but it doesn’t have to be in the dark (a bit of indirect light is good).

  73. Sara Welsh on October 2, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    I’ve been thinking about adding a bit more to my flower beds next spring, and my friend suggested that I use mulch. I didn’t know much about it until I read this article, but I think that she’s right about adding mulch. Mulch would be a great addition to my little front yard forest!Sara Welsh | http://www.jmjlandscape.com/products.html

  74. Kent Clark on October 25, 2014 at 3:24 am

    I didn’t know that there was a such a thing as organic gardening! This is great news! I’ll be sure to start mulching in my yard more. It is tough work, but it is definitely worth it. It will good for my home and my yard. http://www.jmjlandscape.com/pr

  75. Jason shwartz on November 11, 2014 at 2:24 am

    What great information! I honestly never thought about the fabric barriers being a problem for my landscape overall. I really can the importance of the organic mulch. I personally have never tried it out but it sounds like there is a lot of potential. There is one question though that I do have, is not all mulch organic? http://www.mccollumtrucking.com/gallery

  76. Jordan Johnson on December 16, 2014 at 2:52 am

    I am a huge fan of going organic. It seems like that approach is the best for the environment and for our own health. For this reason, I’ve been using organic garden mulch in my landscaping. http://www.downtoearthgarden.com.au/pavers

  77. ronald bryan on December 18, 2014 at 3:31 am

    Number 1 is probably my choice for best mulch. It is very easy to accumulate leaves. Therefore, you can easily get 2 to 4 inches of mulch for a garden or flowerbed. It also makes it easier to pull weeds that emerge through the mulch. http://www.jmjlandscape.com/products.html

  78. James Clarkson on December 20, 2014 at 3:32 am

    Caring for your home and garden requires some expertise. I recently planted several trees in my backyard and was unsure what would be the best material to help them grow. I think that mulch can be a great choice because it will help keep down the weeds. I will have to look at several options and find what will best suit my backyard. http://www.jmjlandscape.com/products.html

  79. Billy Easley on January 22, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    Are pecan leaves bad for your garden?

    • Phil on January 24, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      No, no problem at all. There’s a bit of a myth that pecan and oak leaves are bad, but they’re just fine.

  80. Jules on February 11, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Thank you for another learning Phil. It is another great day for me.

  81. Caesar Mer on February 13, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    is pine needels any good

    • Phil on March 16, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      They’re fine in small doses, but I wouldn’t pile on inches of pine needles as your only mulch.

  82. Stephanie Rodgers on March 16, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    It was a little surprising to read that leaves were the best organic mulch. I always raked up the leaves and threw them away in the recycle or organic bin. After reading this, I think I will have to rethink my fall and autumn activities for my garden. http://www.mossrock.com.au/mul

  83. M P NARAYANAN on March 20, 2015 at 4:17 am

    What about coconut husk (coir) ? Please discuss.

  84. MasticateWithMe on April 3, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks. I’ve been tilling my leaves and my neighbor’s leaves into the soil each year for the past 6 years because it was so sandy and devoid of organic material. There were no worms at all when I started this garden; now there is a thriving worm population. I usually have enough leaves to cover the whole garden about 6 inches deep before I start tilling. This year I’ll try not tilling and just leaving it that way all winter, then I’ll try to keep a permanent blanket of leaves on the garden. I think it’s going to be great for the soil and I think I’ll like the way it looks. I’ll take all the help I can get with weed supression.

  85. Zamma on April 13, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    When using leaves as mulch, do they need to go through the mower, like you would for grass clippings?

    • Phil on April 14, 2015 at 1:28 pm

      No, they’ll break down more quickly if you mow them, which may or may not be what you want.

  86. Zamma on April 13, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    When using leaves for mulching, do they need to go through the lawn mower like grass clippings.

  87. Zamma on April 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Do I need to keep the leaf mulch from directly touching the stems and trunk of my vegetable garden?

    • Phil on April 15, 2015 at 10:28 pm

      It’s usually a good idea, yes.

  88. rtj1211 on April 15, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I think there is a bit of an element of situational choices in this area. If you start with very infertile ground, using leaf mulch may be not much use if there simply aren’t the worms present to assimilate them into the soil ecosystem. I started with that sort of system two years ago and found the first winter that putting fresh horse manure down in a few places worked really well: we had the best ever asparagus crop after a winter with horse manure on top; we created a raised boundary bed with the biggest worms I’d ever seen combining horse manure and the finished tomato plants (haulms under soil/compost).However, having created a no-dig bed for 12 months with significant numbers of worms (over-wintering with horse manure as a mulch, then growing potatoes through the spring/summer), using a leaf mulch on a small area worked superbly in creating a beautiful top soil. Part of the bed also had over-wintered garlic and Swiss Chard grown and both are doing really well this spring.So I kind of think that maybe one viable solution is rock dust plus manure/compost in year 1, then as the worm population and the soil structure improves, then using leaf mulch and cover crops becomes the way to go……

  89. Levy R. on August 20, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Having a good garden that can be really hard to have and manage. There are several types of things you can do to improve a garden, for example adding topsoil and mulch. It seems if you add these things you will be able to quickly improve and strenghten your garden. http://www.cuttingedgesoil.com

  90. Nancy on September 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    What is the current thinking re: recycled rubber landscaping mulch??

    • Phil on September 23, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Often toxic, and missing several of the benefits of a natural mulch.

  91. Rebecca Johnson on November 9, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I had no idea that more organic materials had the ability to hold more moisture. That could be good thing with much if you have plants within it. I had also not thought about grass clippings and hay, but I can see how it could be a good thing depending on the placement. http://www.rmmaterials.com/mul

  92. Joan on March 20, 2016 at 3:08 am

    I just cut down a white oak tree and had the stump grounded. I kept the grounded wood to use as mulch. Is this a good mulch to use for my landscape? I am planting lots of new flowers and young trees for the summer.

    • Phil on March 23, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Hi Joan, this is an okay mulch. Actually, it’s quite good for trees, but not ideal for smaller plants because unless your soil is already quite fertile, it could cause some temporary nutrient imbalances in the soil for the next couple/few years that may impact those smaller plants. It really depends on the soil – it may not even be noticeable, but it’s something to look out for. The ideal solution is to first improve the soil with compost, and to partially compost the chips, but I know the latter is probably not an option. Another thing that can help is to spray the small plants with liquid fish fertilizer and liquid seaweed during the year to help them overcome those temporary nutrient imbalances.

  93. Bob Richer on May 17, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    Great article. Thanks Phil. We are also Zone 5 here in the middle of New hampshire.What do you think about pine needles? We have an abundance in places the municipalities do not want them.

    • Phil on May 19, 2016 at 11:39 am

      Hi Bob, pine needles are fine as a component of a mulch layer. I prefer to see them mixed with other materials like leaves for a more well-rounded mulch (unless you’re just mulching pine trees), but there’s nothing wrong with include pine needles in there.

  94. Andre Beluchi on May 30, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    It seems like each home in my neighborhood have been adding bark and twig mulch for their garden. Seeing how the neighbors have been doing that got me thinking about maybe doing the same thing. Maybe twig mulch can help some of my dead plants come back to life. http://www.greenmachineshingle

  95. Anna Serbaumova on July 9, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    I’ve just started mulching in my garden and it seems to work well. Just one question please: if I mulch, I don’t hoe the soil. Isn’t it a problem for veggies? Thank you.

    • Phil on July 11, 2016 at 11:21 pm

      There’s no real need to hoe the soil. It can be useful if you have a lot of weeds, but usually a mulch takes care of many of them, and the rest you can pull by hand.If you ever need to sow seed, you can pull the mulch aside, sow, and then wait until the plants have germinated and grown some before putting it back.

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