The Wild World of Mulch

Mulch is a many-splendored thing. Here are nine different materials from which we can make mulch for our yards and provide some easy and beautiful landscaping. Which might work best for you?

  1. Rubber

This type is cheap and strong, and it’s made out of recycled tires. It’s great for playgrounds, but you don’t want it in your backyard, since it can leach toxins into the soil.

  1. Landscape plastic

Landscape plastic — polyethylene film — does not let water through. So it’s great as a temporary weed-killing solution, but not ideal for the long haul.

  1. Fabric

Landscape fabric does let air and water through, but it is pricier than landscape plastic.

  1. Rock

People use rock for pathways and walkways, since it will not break down. It is usually pea gravel, lava rock, crushed gravel, or marble chips. You just don’t want to use it near trees, as they will create heat stress and burn the roots.

  1. Composted animal manure

Perfect for vegetables! But it can burn plants roots and carry disease-causing microbes. It is rich in minerals and nutrients, though.

  1. Cocoa chips

They smell great and they look great — a deep, rich brown. They do decompose quickly, though, and if your pets eat it, it could be fatal. Only recommended for pet-free homes.

  1. Cardboard or newspaper

Shredded and undyed — good for keeping out weeds. Make sure it’s undyed, though. Color print can be toxic.

  1. Grass clippings

You can make your own mulch! Good in thin layers for vegetable gardens. You can shred raked leaves for use around trees and shrubs, too.

  1. Straw

This is especially good if you’ve just re-seeded your lawn. It keeps the grass seed from being picked off by birds and rats, and prevents rain from washing it away.