Wood chips are a good choice for mulching paths or areas with a lot of ground to cover. Chips often can be obtained for free from tree and utility companies, arborists, and municipal yard-waste facilities. Wood mulches should not be used in garden beds or locations near the house due to termites and other destructive insects that may be living in them. A popular low-cost choice for wood chip mulch is made from construction wastes and wood pallets, however they should not be used in vegetable gardens due to possible industrial contaminants.
Typically sold as shredded pieces, bark decomposes slowly but stays in place. Options include hardwood or softwood. Common hardwood types include hickory, oak, and elm. Softwood bark, such as pine, fir and redwood, decompose more slowly than hardwood. For garden beds with perennials and shrubs, or where you don’t turn the soil often, you can use mulch materials that break down slowly.
Durability is both the appeal and the drawback of stones as mulch. They stay put and don’t degrade, however they do nothing to improve the soil. Stones or gravel are best used in paths or around trees and shrubs about one inch deep for weed control and water permeability. During hot weather, stones or rocks can radiate heat and cause extreme temperatures, resulting in water loss and severe plant stress.
If weed control is your goal, shredded leaves are your star, especially in garden beds. Leaves from just about any deciduous tree work well. Contrary to popular belief, leaves such as oak will not acidify the soil. Oak leaves are acidic when they’re fresh, but they lose acidity as they decompose.
Leaves should be coarsely shred or chopped by running over them with a lawn mower to prevent matting or blowing away. When you dig into soil that’s been mulched with leaves, you’ll find lots of plump earthworms—nature’s finest fertilizer for your garden.
GRASS CLIPPINGS Grass clippings are a treat for vegetable, annual, and herb gardens, because you can get them from your own yard (though never use grass that has been treated with herbicide). Grass clippings decompose quickly, especially in very hot weather, so reapply them often. For best results, allow them to dry before spreading. Both leaves and grass should be applied two inches deep and replenished as needed. Grass clippings and shredded leaves provide a natural mulch. They breakdown much more quickly than bark or wood chips and offer more nutrients to the soil.
SPRING IS THE BEST TIME FOR MULCHING
When you dig into soil that’s been mulched with leaves, you’ll find lots of plump earthworms—nature’s finest fertilizer for your garden. Spring is the best time for mulching trees, shrubs and planting beds when Landscaping. Mulching offers many benefits, including weed control, retention of soil moisture, and improvement of the overall aesthetics of the landscape. Mulch helps maintain uniform soil temperatures, minimizing damage during drought conditions in summer and root freeze in winter.