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Updated: Feb 15

Has mulching fallen off of, or never made it onto your gardening “to do” list? Maybe you haven’t had the time to mulch or you’re not aware of its many benefits.  If you are looking for a good authority on the subject, just ask Mother Nature. She’s thought of everything and that includes providing the forest floor with a protective blanket made from falling leaves and needles.

Smart gardeners mimic Mother Nature by using decomposing organic materials — bark or wood chips, pine needles, leaves and straw and more — to provide a protective barrier around plants and over soil. Mulching is one of the best things you can do for your garden. Here are six ways mulching helps your garden grow:

Control weeds:  Mulching helps prevent weeds in the open spaces in your garden. That’s because mulch keeps out the sunlight, which weeds need to grow.  A 3-inch thick layer of weeds can keep most weeds from germinating. Even if a few weeds manage to breach the mulch, they should be easy to pull out because the soil is loose and moist.

Retain moisture:  During the hot and dry summer months, water in the soil is lost more quickly to evaporation. Mulch helps to retain water to keep the plant roots moist. Adequate mulching can reduce irrigation needs, which means you cut down on your water bill in addition to limiting water evaporation from the soil.

Insulate soil: Mulch insulates the soil by providing an insulating barrier to the air around it. Applying mulch in spring can keep soil cool into the summer making it more suitable for plants that like a cooler soil. Mulching when the soil warms aids plants that do best in the heat.  During the winter, mulch protects perennials and shallow rooted plants from cold and frost.

Improve soil: The breakdown of mulch adds nutrients to the soil. Also mulch keeps soil nutrients from washing away when it rains.

Prevent soil erosion: Mulching helps to keep wind and rain from eroding topsoil.

Improve appearance: Mulch can be a key element of landscaping by improving the appearance of your garden. In some places, you can use mulch in place of plants as part of your design.

Finally, mulch has the added advantage of recycling waste from your yard. You can reuse your leaves, grass clippings and other trimmings from the garden as mulch so you have less yard waste to dispose of.

Marshall Grain offers several different wood mulches, including finely shredded Cedar and Hardwood in Natural, Red, and Black. Other mulches are also available on a seasonal basis. We also offer bulk delivery of a wide variety of mulches, soils, and amendments. Ask a staff member how we can help you solve your gardening challenge.

Photo: Colored Hardwood Mulches in Natural, Red, and Black

Table 1 lists commonly used mulches along with their advantages and disadvantages. Table 2 is designed to help you calculate how much mulch is needed per square foot of flowerbed. For example, a single 2-cubic foot bag will cover 40 square feet to a depth of 1.6 inches. If you want your mulch layer to be three inches deep, you would need to apply 4.8 bags.


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