Benefits of Mulch: How Mulch Can Help Weed Control and Soil Health

hands holding black mulch with a pick flowwer

Benefits of Mulch: How Mulch Can Help Weed Control and Soil Health

You may think that most people add mulch to their gardens and landscaping because of its aesthetic beauty, but there are many more reasons to use it than that.

Mulch looks great, but it also can be a big help when it comes to keeping your soil moist and healthy and it also will help you combat weeds.

The benefits of mulch are numerous and if you’re not using it on your property already, you’ll want to after reading this post.

Read on to learn about the wonders of mulch and why it’s a wonderful idea for any spot on your property that you want plants to grow and flourish.

Five Benefits of Mulch

There are two categories of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic mulches include things like wood chips, grass clippings, or leaves. Many people like organic mulches because they are all-natural and are always changing. As they break down, they renew the soil, too.

On the other hand, some people prefer inorganic mulches. Some of these are all-natural too, like pebbles and gravel; other inorganic mulches include rubber or plastic mats or chips.

No matter which kind of mulch you like best, adding mulch to your garden and landscaping offers numerous benefits. You’ll soon wonder why you weren’t using it all along.

1. Moisture Retention

Perhaps the most common and useful of the benefits of mulch is to aid in the retention of moisture in your soil. When the sun beats down on the soil, it gets hot fast, and as a result, any water added to it evaporates quickly. Mulch acts as a shade to keep the soil cool, and the mulch itself blocks the evaporation, allowing the water to cycle back into the soil.

2. Weed Control

The second main reason that homeowners and gardeners in general use mulch is to control the growth of weeds. If your soil is open to the elements, weed seeds can land in your beds. As sun and water hit them, you’ve given them an optimal environment to grow.

Mulch blocks these things. Seeds are not as easily able to plant themselves in the soil and, even if they do, the sun will not reach them, and the weed seedlings will quickly die.

3. Added Nutrients

If you choose organic mulch, it will break down over time. As it does, it will release helpful nutrients into the soil. You may even be able to see your soil get darker; darker soil is more nutrient-rich than lighter-colored soil.

4. Erosion Blockage

Rain washes away unprotected soil through the process of erosion. Homeowners who leave their soil uncovered will find themselves buying more soil each year to replace lost soil.

Mulch will help keep your soil where it belongs. The rain will still fall, but your mulch will hold the soil in place.

5. Insect Repellent

Do you have annoying insects in your yard? Mulch can help with that, too. Some organic mulch types can deter these pests. Ticks, mosquitos, gnats, and fleas hate the smell of cedar or cypress.

Happy Mulching

There are so many benefits of mulch. It’s surprising that it isn’t used by every homeowner or gardener already. Once you start using mulch, you’ll never go back to open, uncovered beds again!

If you’re interested in adding some mulch to the beds on your property in the Indianapolis metro area or anywhere in Indiana, give us a call today. We can advise you on some great ideas for every situation. We can’t wait to hear from you!


Winter Mulching Your Garden: A Basic Guide

Most of the Midwest gets its first freeze around the first of October. For a freeze to happen, the air temperature has to drop below 32 degrees F.

Freezing temperatures mean it’s time to turn on the furnace, pull out your fall sweaters, and get out your Halloween decorations.

It’s also a critical time to handle winter mulching. Even though your plants are dying off, you still need to spend a little time in the garden.

Read on to learn how to handle mulching a garden for the winter and why it’s so important.

Why Is Winter Mulching Important?

Winter mulching refers to the practice of covering your flower beds with organic material. It keeps your plants insulated and hydrated during the winter.

After a hard frost, your plants will go into a dormant state. They’re still alive, but their visible leaves and flowers will die off.

Once the ground freezes, you’ll need to mulch the flower beds to keep the roots at a consistent temperature. If the weather warms up again, the plant will think it’s time to bloom and die off when it freezes again. Winter mulching keeps your plants in a dormant state until spring.

Types of Mulch to Use

Mulch can be any organic material, as long as it can insulate the ground.

Some of the most popular types of mulch are wood fiber and bark mulch. Not only will they insulate your flower beds, but they also look great.

You can also use pine needles, straw, leaves, or even boughs from your Christmas tree. In the spring, these materials will break down and add nutrients to the soil.

If you live in a snowy climate, snow also works as a natural mulch. It insulates the ground and provides moisture. So the next time it snows, don’t remove the snow from your flower beds.

How to Mulch a Garden for Winter

When your annual plants look brown and crumbled, you’ll know you’ve had a hard frost. Once that happens, it’s time to handle winter mulching.

First, remove any weeds from the base of your plants. If you have bushes or shrubs to trim or cut back, it’s easier to do it before you mulch.

For smaller plants, put a 2 to 4-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant. If you have woody plants or small trees in your flower beds, leave some space between the mulch and the plant base. If it’s too close to the stems, it can lead to disease or rodent damage.

Winterize Your Garden Today

If you have an interest in gardening, you want your plants to return successfully in the spring. As an amateur gardener, there’s nothing more disheartening than watching your plants not bloom in the spring.

Luckily, winter mulching can protect your plants from harsh winters. If you do it right, you’ll get to see your favorite annuals return next year.

If you’re looking for high-quality mulch, we can help. At McCarty Mulch and Stone, we offer the quality landscaping supplies you need. Use our handy mulch calculator to find out how much you need and place your order with us.

Snow on leaf

Tips for Winter Mulching in Cold Climate Gardens

Residing in a region exposed to freezing winter conditions demands you protect your outdoor plants from the damaging cold. Mulching gives your garden the insulation it needs from the continuous freezing and thawing cycle it faces in the colder months.

The roots of your plants stay warmer for longer when you undertake winter mulching in a cold climate. The ideal winter mulch is coarse in texture and facilitates adequate water and airflow, besides providing insulation.

Purpose and process

Winter mulching involves covering your garden beds with a generous layer of organic material. Since organic mulches consist of natural materials, they gradually decompose while improving the condition of your soil.

Mulching your garden for the winter serves the following purposes:

  • Extends the harvest season when it comes to hardy annual crops
  • Safeguards woody and herbaceous perennial plants from repeated thawing and freezing cycles
  • Equips fragile young plants to build their tolerance for cold
  • Protects bare soil from erosion and losing precious nutrients

Valuable tips for winter mulching in a cold climate

Time it right

You may be tempted to commence the process early, but it pays to wait. It is advisable to apply insulating material after the perennial plants become dormant and the soil begins to harden.

Once your garden receives its first dose of hard frost, you can achieve your goal of preventing the soil from warming. Annual crops, however, need to be mulched before the ground freezes. Extra layers of insulation around two feet thick prevent the soil from freezing.

Be generous

After removing all the weeds present around your plants, spread four inches or more of mulch around the base of each plant. When you undertake this exercise for small fruit trees or shrubs, preferably leave some space around the stems to prevent a rodent attack. Exceptionally cold and windy sites necessitate deeper mulching.

Cover your mulch

It is essential to cover the mulching material with a garden blanket or old sheet to keep winter storms from blowing it all away. You can secure such covering with sturdy logs or rocks.

Avoid plastic covers as this material tends to heat up on sunny days and may cause your plants to burn. Use tall stakes to mark your plant beds so you can trace them even under feet of snow.

Wisely select mulch material

Wood chips are ideal for perennials and woody plants as they break down and keep small rodents at bay. Straw adequately protects strawberries and annual crops like kale and carrots.

Chopped, whole or shredded leaves work for veggies and are a free source of winter mulching in a cold climate. Pine needles suit onion and garlic beds while sawdust saves perennials like small fruits and berries from icy conditions.

Remove mulch when you notice new growth

Once your winter mulch serves its purpose, it must be removed to allow your plants to grow actively. New growth sprouting is an indication to remove the excess mulch that smothers young shoots when left for too long.

Winter mulching allows your cold climate garden to withstand harsh weather and emerge refreshed once the chill settles. Source quality munch from a renowned supplier for your much-loved garden.

When to mulch

When Should You Mulch?

When Should You Mulch?

Many struggle with knowing when the best time to begin your mulching is. The correct answer is whenever you are ready…

Spring is a great time to mulch.

A majority of our customers choose to mulch in the Spring because it allows for plants and trees to receive a majority of their moisture and gives you a good climate to plant and spread mulch in. The Spring is typically when most of your flowers are planted so it makes an opportune time to mulch as well. Not only does the Spring provide an optimal environment for you to work outside, but it also gives your yard a fresh look just in time for everyone to see. Now you are ready to entertain guests this Spring and Summer with a gorgeous looking garden.

Another good time to mulch is in the Fall.

The next best time that we would recommend would be the Fall season. Fall makes a good time to mulch to get your landscape ready for the cooler temperatures that come in the winter months. And the weather is typically favorable for enjoying spending time outside working in your landscape beds.

What about mulch in the Summer?

Summer is not necessarily a bad time to mulch, as mulching in the summer can keep plants and landscape cool during the hot weather months. It also retains any moisture that may be in the ground. 



What’s the Best Way to Apply Mulch?

Yes, there is a best way to apply mulch. Mulching is often simpler than many people make it out to be, but there are some best practices that will go a long way in making your mulch application more successful. There are only a few steps necessary when you find it time to lay down new mulch. If you aren’t sure which mulch is right for you, take a look at all the products on our website. Once you find the right one, use the mulch calculator to determine how much you might need!

Mulching is easy!

Remove the Old Mulch

First, you are going to want to take out a majority of the old mulch that is currently in your flower beds. Leaving the old mulch in will make your landscape look as though it is elevated. This elevation can lead to your plants not getting the nutrients necessary to grow because the roots are planted in the old mulch and not reaching the soil beneath. This is not always necessary, as mulch slowly decomposes over time and will eventually become soil.

Mulching Around Bushes

Mulching bed around the house and bushes, wheelbarrel along with a showel.

After scraping out the old mulch left in your beds, you may want to apply weed fabric over the top of your soil. Weed fabric can discourage weeds from growing in and around your plants and it also helps the soil to conserve moisture. Weed fabric is optional and totally up to you.

Collect the Right Tools for Mulching

It is now time to begin mulching! The process of mulching itself can be a daunting task, especially when dealt with a large pile in your driveway. For this reason, we recommend you get all the help you can to ensure that you aren’t left spreading mulch for weeks on end.

The Best Way to Apply Mulch

Grab a wheelbarrow, a shovel or a pitchfork, and a rake. Use the pitchfork or shovel to load the mulch into your wheelbarrow. Push the wheelbarrow over to your desired destination, and dump! After this, use the pitchfork to evenly distribute the mulch. Finish it off by going over it with the rake to ensure that you don’t miss any spots!

When applying the mulch, we recommend that you spread it anywhere between 2-4 inches deep. This will give your beds a clean, aesthetically pleasing look. You don’t want the soil underneath to be showing, but you also don’t want to make it look like you have mounds of mulch lying around in places.

Evenly spreading allows your landscape to look great and allows for the sunlight, water, and nutrients to seep through to your plant’s roots.

bulk mulch or bagged mulch

Bulk Mulch or Bagged Mulch: The Great Debate

Bulk mulch or bagged mulch? An argument as old as time itself. Numerous people are on both sides of the aisle, but which one is truly better? We’ll first take a look at the more popular of the two, bulk mulch.

Bulk Mulch

Bulk mulch has numerous benefits. The first being that it is often less expensive than the same amount of mulch purchased in bags. For instance, one cubic yard of mulch will equal around 13.5 bags of mulch.

As an example, one cubic yard of Premium Hardwood mulch costs $27.90.

13 bags of the same Premium Hardwood mulch will cost $50.85 ($3.85 each).


As you can see, bulk is much cheaper than that of its bagged counterpart. Bulk mulch is often also fresher than bagged mulch as it has recently been ground and either left to cure or dyed and then cured. Bagged mulch is often sold 3-6 months after it has been ground and bagged.

Bagged Mulch

Bagged mulch has a number of benefits too! The most common of these is the convenience of the bags. If you don’t have access to a pickup truck or don’t want a pile of mulch in your driveway, bagged mulch is likely the choice for you.

Bulk mulch is convenient. 

Bagged mulch can be placed in the back of your car and can be dragged around your yard without the need of a wheelbarrow and shovel. Additionally,  if you leave bagged mulch on your driveway, you don’t have to worry about leaving out a tarp or having to clean off your driveway after you’re finished.

Lastly, bagged mulch can be stored and used later. With bulk mulch, you often have to use it soon after it is delivered or soon after you pick it up. With bagged mulch, if you buy too much, you can simply store it in your garage or shed and use it to refresh the original coat next month.

mulch calculator

5 Reasons You Should Use Mulch Every Year

Yes, There are Reasons You Should Mulch…

If you’re unfamiliar with the whole mulching craze that happens every spring, here are five reasons you should mulch your yard, especially if you’ve never done it before.

Reason #1: Mulch is Healthy for Your Plants

Mulch is a great way to ensure that your plants and flowerbeds receive the nutrients they need to grow big and beautiful. Not only does mulch provide nutrients, but it also helps to keep the nutrients that already exist in the soil. Mulch is a great insulator for your soil because it keeps the moisture and nutrients in and blocks the beating hot sun from oversaturating your soil and pulling the essential nutrients up and out of the ground.

Reason #2 Mulch Improves the Overall Look of Your Landscape

Spreading mulch in your landscape beds can drastically change the look of your home for the better. Choosing a mulch that adds to the aesthetic of your home can do wonders. Regardless of what color or type that you choose, laying down fresh mulch gives your home a very clean look. Dark mulches can help to bring out the color of your house and plants, while a light mulch gives the landscape a sharp, natural look.

Reason #3: Mulch is Good for Your Soil

The health of your soil is important. Mulch prevents the loss of water from evaporation, keeping the nutrients in. Once the mulch begins to break down, the nutrients of the mulch are slowly added into the soil, creating a better environment for your plants to grow in. Lastly, mulch can keep the soil cooler in the heat and warmer in the winter. This leads to more balanced soil temperature, in turn making the soil more fertile. 

grass and dirt

Reason #4: Mulch is Good for the Environment

Mulch is not only good for your soil and plants; it is also good for the environment. Much of the mulch sold at McCarty Mulch and Stone is recycled material brought in by you, the customer! Recycling wood and yard debris leads to a better environment because it keeps the bugs and chemicals associated with rotting wood and yard waste, out of the yard. Burning large amounts of wood and trash can lead to pollution while bringing it to McCarty Mulch and Stone for recycling allows everyone to benefit. You benefit by getting rid of your old yard waste and the world benefits because you’re keeping harmful pollutants out of the air!

Reason #5: Mulching Once and Weed Less

Mulching your landscape beds once a year or even once every two years can allow your plants to flourish. Mulch helps to deter and control weeds. Mulch acts as a barrier, which can limit the amount of sun that weeds are receiving. It also smothers weeds that had already grown and keeps many from freely growing above ground. Mulch can also lead to less erosion, particularly of your soil. Eroding soil can prove to be a bad time for your plants. Mulch allows for a barrier whenever water comes, protecting your soil from washing out. 

Playground Mulch

Which Playground Mulch is Right for You?

Curious about which playground mulch to use in your backyard? At McCarty Mulch, we have plenty of choices for your children’s playground.

Playfun Playground Mulch

The most popular of these, and also the safest, is our Playfun mulch. Playfun is made of small wood chips processed down to a uniform chip size of 1 inch or less. The mulch is light, soft, and springy. Playfun is in compliance with ASTM specifications as well.

These qualities make it perfect for your children’s playground and are why many elementary and middle schools use it for their playgrounds. The mulch, unlike rubber tire mulch, is great for absorption. So not only is it great for playgrounds but it’s also useful in kennels and walking paths.

However, this ideal playground mulch decomposes and requires more maintenance than that of its rubber counterpart. Playfun mulch comes in one color, a light, natural brown color.

Rubber Mulch

Rubber tire mulch is also a good choice for your playground because of its light, bouncy makeup and low level of required maintenance. Once rubber tire mulch is laid, it often only requires maintenance every few years, if that! Because the mulch is made of 100% recycled car and truck tires it never breaks down or decomposes.

The only maintenance required is when your children have kicked and played in it so much that some of it escapes the confines of your playground area. In this case, some spots will need touching up in order to cover the ground. The rubber mulch is also visually appealing and comes in black, brown, and uncolored.

Overall, both mulches will be great for your children’s backyard playground. If you are willing to spend more the first time and have little to no maintenance in the future, then rubber tire mulch is for you. If you are looking to pay less, love the look of a new coat of mulch, and don’t mind having to add Playfun into your playground every few years, then Playfun is likely the mulch for you.


Mulch in Flowerbeds: What You Need to Know

Are you using mulch in your flower bed for the first time or do you simply want to learn how to do it properly? Look no further!

Planning for Mulch

Mulching your flower beds and around your yard seems easy enough, but there are some things that you want to avoid. First and foremost, remove some of the excess mulch or soil that is in and around your flower beds. This will give your mulch bed a better look and allows the mulch to give the flowers and plants located inside the bed an adequate amount of nutrients.

Secondly, take a look at the background and the design of your yard and flower beds. Too many shrubs or plants, or too much mulch in one space can make it look out of place. Make sure that you have plants and shrubs planted where there may normally be a large expanse of mulch located.

Pick a Type and Color

Next comes the color of the mulch. Choose a mulch that compliments the outside of your home. Often times, a darker mulch will look best against a lighter colored home and will contrast the bright flowers in your flower bed well.

At McCarty Mulch, we can provide you with the best mulch for your home. For traditional, non-colored mulches, McCarty Mulch offers many, including Cedar, Cypress, and Premium Hardwood varieties. These mulches have a softer, more natural look that will look fantastic around your flowers and trees.

We also have a wide array of colored mulches. Take your pick! We carry Brown dyed, Black dyed, Red dyed, and Gold dyed mulches. These mulches will have a darker look that allows the colors in your flowers and of the exterior of your house to really pop. Colored mulches offer more aesthetic appeal and can also be at the higher end of a budget. They also require a little more TLC and a little time to cure before watering or getting rained on.

If you’re looking for a mulch that you plan on laying in an area of high traffic, a less expensive mulch such as our Economy mulch may be better. This mulch offers less nutritional value but is chunkier and will break down more slowly than some of the finer mulches that McCarty Mulch carries.

How Much Mulch?

After choosing the type of mulch that you are going to spread, make sure that you know how much you’re going to need. If you need help with the math, just use our handy mulch calculator! Here you can simply type in the dimensions of your yard or flower bed and know the exact amount of mulch you are going to need. 2-3 inches is the normal thickness of mulch around your flower beds. Spreading at this depth will help to conserve moisture and defend against weeds.

Many people choose to spread their mulch in the later part of spring. This gives you a perfect climate to do all of your work in and allows your flowers to get the best amount of nutrients and moisture needed.

Applying Mulch

Lastly comes the spreading! When spreading mulch make sure that you have enough in some areas and not too much in others. When you stand back and take a look at your flower beds after spreading, it is important that the mulch is equal in depth. This will look nicer and help retain the moisture your plants need to stay healthy.

When spreading mulch around trees, place it around the base of the trunk. This reduces the threat of weeds and other plants and gives your trees a more aesthetically pleasing look. As you are spreading the mulch, thin it out as you get closer to a sidewalk or the end of the flower bed, this way there will be less chance of runoff. Not only this but when there are fewer things planted in that certain spot, thinning the mulch out allows you to conserve it and use it in other spots.

Admire Your Work

Now take a step back and admire the work that you have done! Take a look and make sure that the mulch looks equal in depth around your flowers and throughout your beds. Add extra mulch to thinner spots and take mulch away from the deeper places. Now you have a beautiful yard and your plants are getting the nutrients they need to thrive!

mulch calculator

The Math of Mulch: Use this Handy Calculator

How Much Mulch to Use

Many people have a lot of questions about how much mulch to use for their landscape beds or garden. And we have to admit, it can be pretty tough for the everyday person. It’s not like you’re using the measure of cubic yards every day. So, here are a few things to remember the next time you’re wondering what the heck a cubic yard is, and how many cubic yards you may need for your landscape beds.

To determine how much mulch you need, you first need your square footage. This is simply done by measuring the length multiplied by the width of your landscape beds. Enter these numbers into the mulch calculator found on our site, determine how thick you want the mulch to be spread, and calculate. We make it simple!

A single cubic yard of mulch will cover 162 square feet at 2 inches of thickness. This is normally how thick people are spreading their mulch depending on what’s underneath. If you’re looking to spread a little deeper at 3 inches, a single cubic yard will cover around 108 square feet.

An example would be…..say your landscape bed is 15’ X 35’ and you want to spread it 3” deep. You would have 525 square feet total that you would then divide by 100, to equal roughly 5.25 cubic yards.

If you’re looking for bagged mulch, we have all the measurements you need to ensure you get the perfect amount. We have two types of bags. Some are 3 cubic feet in size, and some are 2 cubic feet. 9 bags of the 3 cubic foot bags will equal a cubic yard. 13.5 of the 2 cubic foot bags will equal a cubic yard.

If you’re curious about how much your mulch weighs, most mulch will weigh 600-1000 lbs. per cubic yard. And if you’re coming in to pick up your mulch in bulk, 2.5 cubic yards is the most we can fit in the back of your standard size pickup truck. Don’t have a pickup truck? Or just tired of driving back and forth to McCarty Mulch? We can deliver as much mulch as you need!

House landscaping

What is Mulch used for?

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself “Why do we use mulch?” There’s a good chance, if you’ve been working on your yard or garden, you’ve either thought about laying some mulch around or have already. I’m willing to bet there are many who only spread mulch because everyone else does and they like the way it looks.

The truth is, mulch is essential for the health of your landscape. It helps to hold moisture, control weeds, and to prevent soil erosion. Mulch is remarkable stuff, and any yard or garden not taking advantage of it is missing out.

First of all, what exactly is mulch?

On the surface (pun intended) there’s an easy answer. Mulch is any material that is laid or spread over the surface of the ground as a covering. If we dig a little deeper though, it gets a bit more complicated since there are so many types of mulch.

Common Types of Mulch

I can assure you that there aren’t different types of mulch for aesthetic reasons only. Some are better at holding in moisture, or better at weed control as an example. The type of mulch you need will vary depending on your goal. To determine what mulch you need, you’ll have to learn what each type of mulch is and what it’s good for.

Rubber Mulch

Are you trying to do your part in helping to reduce, reuse and recycle? If yes, then rubber mulch might be an excellent choice for you. It works well for landscaping and gardening and is fantastic as an outdoor flooring material.

Rubber mulch is usually made from tie rubber which has either been chopped up or shaved from tractor-trailer tires when they are being retreaded. While rubber mulch isn’t organic, it does serve some organic purposes.

For example, rubber mulch is much better at insulating soil from heat compared to wood mulches. Also, rubber is a non-porous, so no moisture gets absorbed and lost as it makes its way through the mulch into the soil below.

Rubber mulch is very popular used as a ground cover for playgrounds. It’s safer for children than wood mulch since it does a better job of breaking falls thanks to its elasticity, and it doesn’t biodegrade and need to be replaced every couple of years.

Bark Mulch

As the name might imply,  it comes from the bark of trees. To be specific, it’s bark from various conifers, like pines and firs. Bark mulch is unquestionably aesthetically pleasing, but it’s also beneficial for growing plants. For example, it slows moisture evaporation, and as it biodegrades, it adds nutrients back into the soil. One drawback of bark mulch, however, is that it’s lightweight and can be pushed around by wind or rain.

Hardwood Mulch

Being inexpensive, hardwood mulch sees extensive usage in gardens and other landscaping. Hardwood retains moisture well and does a fair job insulating the soil. It’s mostly useful around plants which don’t need much acidity since it breaks down adding alkaline to the soil. Plants that need higher acid levels will require acid-increasing fertilizer.


They are (usually) free and doesn’t take much work, and they can work well. There are, however, a few caveats when using leaves as a mulch.

Using too thick a layer of leaves can have some negative effects on your soil. The leaves can mat together and keep air and water from reaching the dirt, and they can hold too much moisture creating the potential for rot and fungus. The best thing to do is shred the leaves first, but problems may still occur if you lay it on too thick.

Straw and Hay

Straw and hay are most popular for vegetable gardens. They keep soil and soil-borne diseases from getting splashed up onto plant leaves, and it helps make paths less muddy. Straw decomposes slowly and will usually last for the entire growing season. It makes a nice home for beneficial insects who will help keep the pests under control. Last but not least, it’s easy to rake up or work into the soil adding organic material benefiting next season’s plants.

Rocks / Gravel

Rocks can be handy and function similar to rubber mulch as they allow for better water flow without absorbing it. Also, like rubber, rocks help the ground stay warm, just not in the same way. Whereas rubber acts as an insulator, rocks absorb the heat from the sun during the day, then releases that heat keeping the ground warm through the night.

Just be careful when using rocks because other material can build up between the rocks which could inhibit air and water from reaching the soil as well.

So Why Mulch?

It would be easier to ask why someone wouldn’t mulch, rather than why someone should as there are so many different reasons. The benefits of mulch are numerous. Healthier soil, greater plant growth, moisture control, weed control, and aesthetics are just a few that spring to mind. Maybe your goal is a better harvest, or maybe you want the best-looking yard on the block, mulch is going to be a key factor in pretty much any scenario.

With all the varieties, finding the best mulch for your situation can be easy. Many share similar properties, but each one has something the others don’t.

The Final Straw (another mulch pun)

Mulch is a beautiful thing. Even with its drawbacks, it’s much more beneficial than many other things you can do in your yard and garden. Mulching will keep your plants growing stronger and healthier, your soil staying moist and weeds from growing.

Mulch makes you work less pulling weeds, watering, and maintaining proper soil health. All you need to do with mulch is rake it about occasionally, and depending on the type you use, maybe replace it every few years.

Now you know what mulch is used for and what it can do to your garden. As you take care of it, mulch can be the greatest thing you ever did for your landscape.


What is the Best Mulch for Weed Prevention?

The best mulch for weed prevention will depend on a few considerations: what else you need it to do, where it is laid and of course, what kind of garden or area you are mulching.

If you ask any experienced gardener what the most critical factor for a healthy garden is, you may get a few different replies, but one of the top answers is guaranteed to be mulch. Amending the soil yearly and adding liberal amounts of organic material are also crucial factors, but the knowledge gained from years of experience says, “cover your dirt!”

Mulching is, by definition, covering your soil with a protective layer. Materials vary and can be organic or inorganic, semi-permanent or compostable. Mulch is used to help avoid drought, discourage weeds and retain warmth to keep bulbs and plants warm. However, the focus is really on what it does for the soil beneath.

Don’t take our word for it though; the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has said “mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in the garden” and the Arbor Day Foundation said, A newly planted tree’s best friend is mulch.”

How does mulch prevent weeds?

Mulch prevents weeds in a number of different ways. New weed seeds need dirt to grow, and a thick layer of mulch helps prevent the seeds from ever reaching the soil. As for the seeds or roots that are already in the soil, mulch blocks one of a plant’s essential needs, sunlight. Weeds will try to fight their way through, but if your layer of mulch is thick enough, it will suppress all but the most resilient.

The Least Expensive Methods

It’s not always necessary to purchase mulch if you have no aesthetic requirements. Homeowner associations may have requirements to consider, and the whole point of a flower garden is its aesthetics. However, a vegetable garden is different, especially if you’re growing food for the purpose of saving money.

The best inexpensive mulch that also benefits your soil includes sawdust or wood chips, compost, grass clippings, leaves, or straw.  

Be sure to avoid herbicide-treated grass clippings. They will devastate your garden, and the only thing you’re likely to be able to grow will be corn.

When using straw, it is best to find bales that don’t have seed heads unless your intention is to grow wheat. Also, try to find organic straw bales. Sometimes wheat is sprayed with a glyphosate herbicide just before harvest and could kill your broadleaf plants.

It’s important to remember that grass, leaves, and straw, can contain weed seed, so once they decompose, they add more seeds to the soil. To avoid this, you will regularly need to add more to choke out the light.

Nonorganic Mulches Gold Dyed Landscaping Pic

Rubber mulch does not decompose, so you won’t have to reapply it every year. Also, it is available in a variety of colors making it the most visually appealing option of the nonorganic mulches. The downside is that being nonorganic; it will not decompose and add any nutritional value to the soil. This, however, is easily resolved by using fertilizer.

Weed barrier is a nonorganic option that does well at weed suppression, but it is not at all pleasing to the eye. Most gardeners use them in vegetable gardens though they can also be used as a layer underneath other mulch that looks better. This is worth the extra work to some gardeners; others will instead use organic materials that can be left to eventually become more soil.

Organic Mulches (pretty ones)

Shredded or chipped bark doesn’t break down as quickly as some other organic mulches. While this means it won’t provide much nutritional value to your soil, it also won’t need to be replenished as often. These mulches come in a variety of woods and colors to match your aesthetic needs. Some favorite woods used for mulch are cypress, pine, cedar or other hardwood by-products available from sawmills in your area. Bark mulches also work well in several different settings but are particularly useful around trees, shrubs and on pathways.

How to Apply Mulch for the Best Weed Control

The most common mistake people make when applying mulch is not using enough or using too much. To smother the weeds and retain moisture within the soil, the layer of mulch needs to be at least 3 inches thick but no more than 3 inches or you could do damage to tree trunks and shrubs. Even two inches of mulch can let through enough sunlight allowing weed seeds to germinate.

Don’t push mulch up against the plants. Keep the mulch at least an inch or two from tree trunks, shrubs and the stems/stalks of your flowers and vegetables. When it’s right up against a plant, it can hold moisture and cause your plant to rot.

Since organic mulches break down (and improve your soil), they need to be replenished. You should add an inch of mulch to your gardens either in spring or fall every year to maintain the necessary three inches.

The Good and the Bad

Every mulch material has its pros and cons. Straw can harbor insects and weed seeds. Grass clippings can mold and compact. Wood chips and shredded wood require fertilizer to add nitrogen to the soil. Plastic needs to be removed at the end of the season and reapplied the next.

What mulch you use will depend on where it’s being used, your budget, if you want to remove it, till it into the soil every year and if you have a preference for organic or nonorganic products. Be sure to research all the pro and cons of each before choosing what will work best for your garden.  You can also check out our other articles that go more in depth and are specific to flower gardens and vegetable gardens.

Mulch will benefit every area of your garden. Whether you make your own, like grass clippings and leaves, or whether you order in bulk or buy bags of it at McCarty Mulch & Stone, be sure you use MULCH.  While your plants and soil will thank you for the benefits of mulch, the weeds won’t!