Mulching your landscape offers a number of benefits, such as weed reduction, moisture retention, erosion control, soil insulation, and beautification. But different mulches can have different benefits and figuring out which works best for your yard or garden will help you reach your landscaping goals.
When you go to a garden center or your regular mulch supplier, you may notice two options: organic and inorganic. But is there really a difference between the two? And which one works better?
Organic mulches are usually by-products of other industries, while inorganic mulches are made from non-natural or human-made materials. While the two types are on the opposite ends of the spectrum, each have been used for aesthetic reasons and have their own sets of advantages.
There are several benefits to using organic mulch in our landscape, including:
Inorganic mulches are mostly used to create barriers to weeds. While inorganic mulch doesn’t provide any nutritional benefits to soil like organic mulch does, there are still other benefits that come with using it. They include:
Organic mulch is mainly made of plant or animal materials that were once living. It decomposes over time, which improves soil structure and quality by returning nutrients to the soil. There are a few different organic mulch types, such as:
Organic mulch needs to be replaced frequently as it decomposes and is prone to becoming displaced. The materials in organic mulch also may create a habitat for pests if placed too close to tree trunks.
Inorganic mulches are made from hardier materials that do not decompose quickly or at all, including some human-made materials. There are a few different types of inorganic mulch that are used for different purposes. They include:
Inorganic mulches are more costly than organic mulch and may not be appropriate for all sites. Inorganic mulch also may be difficult to install. While rocks absorb heat, they can also reflect heat and cause damaging hot spots within your garden.
Apply organic mulch at the start of growing season, but be aware that as the season goes on, the mulch will settle and gradually rot at the bottom. Adding more layers throughout the season ensures continuous weed control, provides a clean resting place for your garden, and creates a pleasing appearance.
Wood chips and shredded leaves work best as mulch for flower gardens and shrub borders, while grass clippings and straw or hay help vegetable gardens thrive. Compost is a nutrient-rich mulch but works best as a thin layer around plants that can be topped with a different mulch.
When trying to decide which mulch to use, it’s best to see what type of mulch aligns with your landscaping goals. Organic mulch creates nutrient-rich soil that helps plants thrive, while inorganic mulch can last longer. Do you prefer low maintenance mulching or does frequently mulching fit into your schedule?
Overall, organic mulch provides more benefits to your plants, but inorganic mulch doesn’t necessarily harm your plants either. Think about your aesthetic, health, and maintenance goals and define which mulch works best for you.