What kind of Mulch

April 20, 2024

Four cubic yards of mulch in the backyard and one more to go.

Last week’s nice weather had us putting down fresh mulch over the gardens.  We hadn’t added mulch since August 2022, a week before the backyard wedding.

Spreading mulch is the gardener’s most gratifying job.  Mulch is lightweight, easy to spread, and gives the gardens a fresh, enhanced appearance.  The woodsy fragrance is a bonus.

The two main advantages of mulching in the garden are weed suppression and moisture retention.  Other advantages include nutrient enhancement, erosion control, reduction of sun heat damage and promotion of soil microbial activity.

Mulch comes in several forms, the most popular being wood chips.  Straw, leaves, grass clippings, newspaper and tree bark can also be used for mulch, all organic because they were once alive, and will slowly break down.

Wood chips come in many forms.  Shredded Canadian Pine mulch, my favorite, is long lasting, has a rich brown colour, and when put down, remains nicely in place.  Because it is shredded, with the fibers locking together, it won’t move or float away.  And because it is primarily bark, it is longer lasting than mulches that are made of trees’ inner heartwood.

Shredded Cedar Mulch has the advantage of longevity and wonderful fragrance.  Its colour is natural golden brown with a fluffier texture than other mulches.  Cedar’s oils act as a natural occurring preservative, making it long lasting, requiring less replenishing.

Dyed mulches, in red, black and brown, are made from wood by-products and shredded to the size of wooden matchsticks.  Coloured dye is added for cosmetic purposes.  You won’t catch me with dyed red mulch in my backyard.  Black mulch offers a contemporary look, while brown looks most natural.  Unfortunately, the colouring in the dyed mulch slowly fades.

Economy mulch is made up of tree branches that have gone through a chipper to make the pieces smaller.  Sourced from arborists or tree cutting companies, economy mulch has the advantage of good quality at a favorable price.  In our backyard, we use economy mulch in the back forty, while we use finer textured mulch in the gardens near the house.

Shredded Hardwood mulch is essentially the same as economy mulch but has been put through a grinding machine giving the material a finer consistency.

Those who want a clean landscape providing nearly 100% control of weeds should consider using beach stone, peastone, or one of many coloured aggregates.  Be sure to put down a weed barrier fabric over the soil and under the aggregate.