Depending on where you live, you probably see mulch daily. But if you are paying attention, you will notice there are many different types of mulch that have a wide range of other uses and applications.
This article will answer your mulch questions: what exactly is mulch? What are the different types of mulch used, and what are the pros and cons of each variety? Why should you use mulch at all in a garden? Does organic versus non-organic make a difference? And specifically, what is the best mulch for a vegetable garden?
Here we will explain everything about mulch and what makes the best mulch for a vegetable garden!
What Is Mulch?
The most basic definition of mulch is any type of material spread in a layer as a covering over a surface of the soil. In addition to making the garden look more aesthetically pleasing, mulch has a multitude of practical benefits, including preventing pests and disease, regulating soil moisture and temperature, and enhancing the nutrient content of the soil.
There are two categories of mulch: organic and non-organic.
Organic mulches are entirely natural and biodegradable materials. They are best for adding nutrients to the soil.
Inorganic mulch, on the other hand, is made up of synthetic materials. One of the primary advantages of inorganic mulch is its long lifespan and ability to block weeds.
The following section will detail more of the advantages of mulch in your vegetable garden.
Why Should You Use Mulch in Your Garden?
If you are serious about gardening, it is wise to use some kind of mulch to keep your plants healthy and productive.
Mulch helps the soil retain moisture, meaning that your plants will require less frequent watering and run less risk of drying out from under-watering. Covering the surface of the soil helps prevent water from evaporating and helps ensure this needed moisture goes straight to the plant's roots.
Additionally, mulch helps regulate soil temperature by acting as a blanket to protect the plants’ sensitive roots from extremely hot and cold temperatures that could otherwise be harmful.
Mulch can minimize unwanted weeds in your garden by serving as a barrier between weed seeds and the soil. In the same way, mulch can protect against common diseases affecting the health of your plants.
Lastly, mulching your garden provides excellent aesthetic value. Mulch helps to visually define your garden beds from the rest of your lawn and covers up exposed soil that may not be as appealing to look at.
Different Types of Mulch
Let’s look at the most common types of mulch, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each variety.
Compost is primarily made up of food waste from kitchens and natural debris from yards (including leaves, which are a separate category of mulch). Compost is one of the best ways to enhance the nutritional content of the soil, meaning your plants will be healthy throughout every season.
Dry leaves are a substrate that is readily available throughout the fall season and makes an excellent mulch in a vegetable garden. They decompose at a relatively fast rate compared to other types of mulch, which means they increase soil nutrients rapidly. However, this means you will need to re-mulch sooner than you would with a different substrate.
One of the main advantages of leaves is that they are entirely free, and you can feel good about diverting this material from a landfill into a positive, natural cycle.
Wood Chips and Bark
Mulch made from wood and bark has the advantage of being long-lasting, meaning that you will not need to re-mulch your garden beds as often as you would with a finer substrate. They are porous and allow plenty of water into the soil while trapping moisture and regulating temperature.
Wood chips are often available for free from local arborists.
Pine straw is a very lightweight mulch that may easily wash away during a heavy rainstorm or be blown away in high winds. Additionally, it is an acidic material that may affect the pH of your soil. However, it also has advantages.
Pine needles do an excellent job of retaining moisture in soil without being too heavy and compressing it. As a bonus, they are readily available at any garden store and are an affordable option.
Sheets of plastic are another common type of mulch with a few notable advantages. This material is inorganic, meaning that it will never decompose or enhance the nutrient content of the soil. Some gardeners use plastic to block moisture and heat loss from the earth during colder months of the year.
However, some types of plastic may not have enough drainage to allow water to pass through and be absorbed by the soil.
Best Mulch for a Vegetable Garden
We think compost is the best organic mulch for a vegetable garden! It dramatically increases the soil's nutrient content, making for a healthy and productive crop. Furthermore, you can even make it yourself.
There are many great choices besides homemade compost, though. Dry leaves, wood chips, straw, grass, and inorganic mulches are viable and practical options for you to consider using in your garden.
When selecting the type of mulch to use, it is vital to take into account the pros and cons of each and make a decision based on the season, your location, and the type of soil you are working with, as well as the cost and availability of materials.
Here at Out of Eden, we stock 100% organic mulch in three varieties and are proud to offer top-quality mulch for purchase in bulk.
In Need of Organic Mulch?
If you’re looking for the best organic mulch for your vegetable garden, we’re here to help. Visit us here at Out of Eden Garden Center, contact us online, or give us a call at (865) 984-8500 today! We are here to help your garden grow.