Mulch: Explained

In today's post, we're going to cover everything you've ever wanted to know about mulch (and then some!).

There are two general varieties of mulch: organic and inorganic. Both varieties have some overlap in functionality. For instance, both types will help prevent soil erosion. Both will aid in weed prevention. Both can improve the look of your landscape. Beyond that, there are some pretty big differences.

Organic mulch is mulch that is comprised of once-living materials, like wood chips and bark. You can buy organic mulch in different colors and coarseness:

  • Single-processed mulch is the most coarse and has a very rough appearance.

  • Double-processed mulch is hammered, and then hammered again to have a less coarse consistency than single-processed.

  • Triple-processed mulch is hammered a third time, and is much finer than double-processed mulch.

Organic mulch has many pros, but a couple of cons. First, the benefits:

  • The biggest benefit of organic mulch is that it decomposes, and its decomposition adds valuable nutrients to the soil, which is great for your plants.

  • It also keeps the sun from beating down on the soil and causing water to evaporate quickly. This keeps your plants from becoming as thirsty as they would otherwise, because they have a longer window of opportunity to drink up.

  • It also helps keep oxygen in the soil.

Sounds great, right? The drawbacks of organic mulch are:

  • It has to replaced regularly. Because it decomposes, organic mulch will need refreshing annually.

  • You need to time the installation. If you don't put the mulch down early enough, you'll struggle with weeds that had a chance to get into the soil and germinate. But if you put it down too soon, your plants may not bloom until later in the season, because the ground didn't get a chance to warm up enough.

Inorganic Mulch is made up of materials that were never living, such as rubber, gravel, or rocks. The benefits of inorganic mulch are:

  • It's low maintenance. Because it doesn't decompose like organic mulch, inorganic mulches do not need yearly replacement.

  • Since it doesn't need yearly replacement, inorganic mulch can be less expensive in the long run, although more expensive initially.

Inorganic mulch has some cons too:

  • It puts no nutrients back into the soil, which can cause problems for your plants' growth over time.

  • Gravel and rocks absorb heat from the sun, which can raise the temperature of the ground beneath, and actually increase water loss.

  • Because inorganic mulch will not decompose and takes a long time to break down, you will have to manually remove it if you want to get rid of it. Or, if you want to add plants to a bed with existing rock or gravel mulch, it can be hard to do.

The type of mulch you choose will depend on what your needs and expectations are for your landscaping. We hope this post helped give you the information you need to make the best choice for you!