is neither a fertilizer
nor an amendment
, although some mulches can act as one or both. Mulch is what you put down on top of your planted areas to cover and protect the soil. It helps prevent water loss and keeps weeds from growing around established plants. It can also help regulate temperature around sensitive plant roots. Mulch can even be decorative, such as gravel around the base of a tree.
There are basically two kinds of mulch available: natural and artificial. leaf blower
. Rubber mulch, on the other hand, is more permanent. It will stay put most of the time and doesn't need replacing.
Natural mulches can be made of just about any plant matter you have lying around. Leaves, grass clippings, compost, pine needles, straw just about anything is fair game. They have different properties (see below), and not all mulches are right for all areas.
Some mulches are available commercially, but you'll have to make your own grass clippings and shredded leaves. Using lawn and yard waste has an advantage over other mulches, however; it's both free and ecologically friendly, since you don't have to bag it and let it sit in a landfill.
Organic, in this context, only means "was once alive." Although the time it takes will vary, all organic mulches will eventually decompose, so you need to plan on adding more every so often.
** Attractive and long-lasting, bark breaks down slowly and stays where you put it.
** Good around trees and shrubs.
* '''Pine Needles
** Resist matting, allowing water to easily penetrate.
** Decompose slowly.
** Good for acid-loving plants like azaleas.
** Use aged sawdust; fresh sawdust can deplete nitrogen, although may not cause much of a problem if only used on top of beds.
** Similar to sawdust but takes longer to decompose.
** Lightweight, easily blown off.
** Contain a lot of easily decomposed organic matter; better to work these into the soil as an amendment.
** Can be a helpful covering for newly-seeded lawns.
** Rubber mulch might sound unappealing for use around your beautiful plants, but it can be a good alternative since you only have to put it down once.
** It doesn't disintegrate into the soil, won't blow or float away, and performs as well as any organic mulch.
** Several colors allow you to get just the look you want.
** Can be a very attractive addition to the landscape, but not always the best choice for the health of your plants.
** Lighter colors may reflect heat and light back up at your plants.
** Not good for beds that you plant every year, since you'll have to move it every year. Try it around trees and shrubs instead.
** Best for veggie gardens.
** Plastic keeps water and warmth in the garden which can accelerate growth.
** Retaining too much of either is not good, however.
* '''Landscape Fabric'''
** Many of the advantages of plastic but with better breathability.