Using Mulch in Your Garden

By: Julie Day

Pinestraw mulch under tree

Nature has a simple and effective process for feeding and enriching the earth. When plants die or drop their leaves, the organic matter decomposes and returns nutrients to the soil.

During the winter, this layer of organic matter protects seeds from the cold, and in the spring it holds in moisture to encourage seed germination. If the layer is thick enough, it will discourage new growth and protect established plants.

Gardeners have taken this natural process and turned it into the concept of mulching where a thick layer of organic matter is applied to planting beds and gardens.

Advantages of Mulch

Mulching helps the garden by providing:

  • Weed control
  • Soil enrichment
  • Moisture retention
  • Visual appeal


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14 Comments on “Using Mulch in Your Garden”

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  • Tina Hurtado Says:
    September 17th, 2016 at 8:13 am

    I was told from someone who does pest control that mulch and pine straw next to the house are bad because of termites. Living in Florida i want to do all I can to keep termites away. What kind of mulch or ground cover do you recommend next to the house?



  • grannie john Says:
    May 20th, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Can I mulch my potted plants (herbs & veggies) with uncooked white rice or corn flour?



  • penny schlehuber Says:
    March 10th, 2015 at 7:36 am

    I was talking to a landscaper, he was telling me he added something to the mulch to weigh it down. I cannot remember what it was. Any ideas?



  • Chris studies Mulching Says:
    March 24th, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Cool. There’s even an article for it. I actually use grass cuttings, leaves and some dried stems. I’ll check out the seedling bank for mosses too.

    Thanks!


  • Official Comment:


    Julie Day Says:
    March 12th, 2010 at 8:34 am

    Chris, you can mulch your potted plants the same way as garden plants. Also, in pots, you can use more fragile mulches (such as mosses) that would break down too quickly in the yard. Check out our article on How To Dress Up Your Houseplants With Mulch – the tips apply both to indoor and outdoor potted plants.



  • Chris studies Mulching Says:
    March 12th, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Hi! Most of my plants are actually in pots, whereas most of the tips I find are for full scale gardens. Should the same principles apply? I really just want to mulch so I can recycle organic material in the garden.


  • Official Comment:


    Ben Erickson Says:
    June 12th, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    Hi Denny,
    You can read the answer to your question about coloring mulch here: How to Change the Color of Mulch



  • Denny Says:
    May 29th, 2009 at 3:10 pm

    My neighbour cut a tree and the lanscaping company which cut the tree was kind enough to give a half load of natural wood mulch. Is there a way to color these wood chips to Cedar red color, so that it goes well with my lanscape?

    Any input will be helpful.



  • MRS. TEDDER Says:
    October 1st, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    QUESTION: A SECTION OF MY FRONT YARD HAS THE 1/2″ ROCKS
    WHERE I HAVE PLANTED VARIOUS PERINNIALS; CAN I SPREAD MULCH ON TOP OF THE ROCK AND THEN MORE 1/2″ COLORED ROCK ON TOP OF THE MULCH OR DO I NEED TO REMOVE THE ROCK FIRST IN ORDER TO SPREAD THE MULCH?



  • DIY: Rental House Flower Bed Solutions - Danny Lipford Says:
    August 21st, 2008 at 11:01 am

    […] The easiest way to make your flower beds look nice and neat, without even needing plants, is with mulch. First pull out any weeds, grass, or brush. Then put down some landscape fabric or plastic, to keep weeds from sprouting. Finally, put down a thick layer of the mulch of your choice. You’ll be amazed how it makes an area look “tended.” […]



  • DIY: Xeriscape for Drought-Tolerant Landscaping - Danny Lipford Says:
    July 8th, 2008 at 10:01 am

    […] Using a layer of mulch around plants increases moisture retention and helps keep roots cool. See Using Mulch in Your Garden. […]



  • Julie Says:
    June 23rd, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    You can buy polished river stones that look more like the wet stones. For a sample, check out:

    http://rocktumblingsupplies.com/polished_river_rocks.htm

    As for the bulk river stones at your local landscaping supply yard, the only solution I know of is to coat them with a “wet look” sealer, lacquer, or shellac. One example of such a product can be found at:

    http://www.glaze-n-seal.com/sealers.html

    I would recommend reserving that method for stones that will not be in contact with dirt or ground water, due to the environmental impact. Practically speaking, the sealers work best with stones imbedded in mortar, such as on a fireplace or backsplash.

    If you find any other solution, please share. The stones just come to life when they are wet – it’s amazing.



  • Dave Says:
    June 18th, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Is there a way to keep the river rock used in landscaping looking wet? Thanks, Dave



  • jeff-naturehills Says:
    June 6th, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    Your river rock bed looks great. I have one for drainage purposes but seeing your picture of he wet river rock makes me think about installing a small water feature.


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Using Mulch in Your Garden