How to Use Mulch in Your Flowerbeds and Garden

How to Use Mulch in Your Flowerbeds and Garden
Photo: ronstik, Shutterstock

If you read a lot of gardening how-to articles — including the ones on this site — you’ve probably noticed that mulch comes up a lot. Its ability to help your plants hydrated, as well as to keep weeds a bay make mulch a popular (albeit stinky) gardening supply.

But there are different types of mulch that serve a variety of purposes, and you can’t just plop down any amount of any kind and expect it to work wonders. In a recent article for Well+Good, Francesca Krempa spoke with a horticulture expert to get the dirt on mulch. Here’s what to know.

Types of mulch

Basically, there are two broad categories of mulch: organic and inorganic. According to Angelo Randaci, a master gardener and horticulture expert at Earth’s Ally, organic mulch is made of plant and tree materials like chopped leaves, wood chips, shredded bark, and pine needles. Inorganic mulch, on the other hand, is composed of manmade like rubber, plastic, and other landscaping fabrics.

Each type has its pros and cons. “If you want to improve your soil, use one of the many organic mulches available,” Randaci told Well+Good. “As they break down, they’ll enrich your soil.” Meanwhile, inorganic mulch won’t help with the quality of your soil, but it’s good at keeping flowerbeds insulated, and preventing the growth of weeds.

How much mulch to use

Ideally, Randaci says you’ll want to spread between two and four inches of mulch evenly across your flowerbeds. “If using a finer mulch, go with 1/2 inch or less, and apply 2-inches deep,” he told Well+Good. “If you’re using a courser mulch such as pine nuggets, apply 3-4 inches deep.”

Spreading the mulch

You also have to pay attention to where you put the mulch. Per Well+Good:

Randaci says to never mulch directly around the stems or trunks of any plant, flower, tree, or shrub. Instead, push your mulch 4-inches away from stems of annuals and perennials, and at least 6-inches from trees and shrubs, to avoid stressing the plant structure.

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