Which Type of Mulch Is Right for Your Landscape?

It’s time to choose some mulch for your landscape. But which kind do you choose? Bark or wood? Black or Red? Pebbles or volcanic rock? And do you really need landscaping fabric underneath it? It’s not as simple to purchase as it appears, as each type of mulch has its own advantages and disadvantages. But, with a little knowledge, you can pick the right mulch for the job at hand.

Every kind of mulch was developed to perform specific functions in your landscape. Knowing what they are will make choosing the right mulch much simpler.

Let’s break it down:

Organic Wood Mulches: Wood mulches can vary widely, including varieties of mulch made from bark, and mulch made from chipped wood. The advantage of using wood mulch is that it is organic material that will evenly soak up water, keep your landscape plants cooler, and keep the soil moister. The wood mulch will also decompose over time, which will nourish the soil around your plants. This, however, can also be one of the “cons” of using wood mulch. The wood mulch will fade and decompose after just a year or two, making replacement necessary. Some versions of mulch are natural; some are dyed red or black. The color is strictly a cosmetic consideration. The advantage of the dye is that it holds its color for an additional year, making the need to replace it every year a little less necessary.

Rubber Mulch: Rubber mulch, usually made from recycled tires or rubber mats, can be a surprisingly attractive option that will last for many years. It does work to divert water to the ground underneath. However, it does heat up in the heat and doesn’t work quite as well for weed suppression unless it is accompanied by landscape fabric underneath.

River Rock/Landscape Pebbles: Pebbles can also be quite attractive, and their heaviness makes them a permanent choice for your landscape. However, they heat up in the sun like rubber mulch, and landscape fabric may be necessary to keep weeds from peeking through the rocks.

Volcanic Rock: The porous nature of volcanic rock means that they hold on to water somewhat better than rubber or river rock. If you have small children, the rocks can be a little sharp to bare feet or hands, so supervision may be necessary. The rocks are lighter in weight than many other kinds of pebbles and may need occasional raking to keep them in place.

All mulch is not created equal. Match the right mulch to the right project, and you’ll have happier plants and bushes, and a more beautiful landscape.