What is the best mulch for gardens? Garden Tips 2024

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Your soil needs nutrients and protection, both of which can be found with mulch. There are many different types of mulch, including both organic and inorganic forms. Read on to know which type of mulch is best for your garden.

What is the best mulch for gardens: Garden mulch falls into two categories. Organic mulch, such as grass clippings, straw, and bark, will slowly degrade and release nutrients into your soil. Inorganic mulch, such as landscape fabric and gravel will create a barrier for weeds to grow.

Different Types of Garden Mulch

Organic Mulch

When we talk about organic mulch, we mean natural elements that will break down and become a part of your garden. Organic mulch doesn’t have any chemicals or pesticides, so it is completely safe for all types of gardens, including flowers and vegetables.

Bark mulch

Perhaps the most common type of bark mulch is made from small pieces of wood. This is a nice, inexpensive mulch that works really well and as an added bonus, can give your garden a neat and tidy look to it.

Bark mulch will come in different colors, which are dependent on the type of trees it comes from. You can find black, brown, red, and light mulch, and you can pick depending on the aesthetic you want.

You can easily find bark mulch at garden and home improvement stores although if you need a lot, you can also have some delivered. You may even be able to get free bark mulch from local tree-trimming companies.

The benefit of bark mulch is that it will start to break down and slowly release nutrients into your garden. It also provides a barrier so weeds can’t grow through, making gardening a lot easier.


Another popular form of mulch is straw. This organic mulch will naturally break down but if you need to plant something underneath it, the lightweight of the material will make it easier to rake to the side.

Straw has the added benefit of being a habitat for beneficial insects, such as spiders, which prey on other insects you don’t want in your garden. It also helps prevent weeds from growing.

If you have a garden with low-hanging fruit, such as strawberries, straw is an ideal barrier. It will prevent the fruit from coming into contact with the ground, which limits the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Grass Clippings

Although grass clippings aren’t the most common form of mulch, they do have a lot of benefits, so you shouldn’t discount them right away. One of the biggest benefits is that they are free and you can simply transfer the clippings from your lawnmower right to your garden.

The problem with grass clippings, however, is that if they are clumped they can start to smell as they break down. But the thicker they are, the better they are at weed suppression.

While you can use grass clippings as mulch in your garden, you may be better off leaving them to break down in your lawn. Simply take the bag off your lawnmower and let the grass clippings settle in your yard.


In the fall, it can be hard to know what to do with all the fallen leaves. They look so pretty but if you leave them in thick piles on your lawn, the grass underneath will suffocate and die.

Leaves are incredibly valuable, however, so don’t toss them. Instead, use them as mulch all around your garden.

If you have large leaves, it is better to shred them first as this will increase the rate of decomposition. You can use a lawnmower to mulch the leaves and then collect this and spread them over your garden.

Garden compost

Most gardeners will turn their soil over and add in compost but you can actually skip this step and add compost to the top of your garden. However, if you go this route the compost needs to be broken down really well or else you could have rotting food scraps in your garden.

Compost will break down slowly, even if it is mature, which means a steady release of nutrients. If you don’t like the look of compost in your garden, add a layer of bark mulch or straw on top to hide it.

Inorganic Mulch

We often think of mulch as organic but there are plenty of options you can use that are inorganic. These won’t break down which means they won’t add any nutrients to the soil.

Instead, their main purpose is to stop weeds from growing and to decrease the level of maintenance in your garden.


There may be some debate about whether plastic is considered mulch or not, but it does work well to prevent weeds from growing in unwanted areas.

You can find garden plastic in large rolls in most home improvement stores. Lay the thin plastic down where you want it, cutting holes where plants will grow.

Garden plastic is usually black which has the added advantage of keeping the soil warm. If you have plants that don’t like their roots to get too cold, then you can use plastic around them.

Plastic is also an important step if you want to create a gravel pathway or border. You can lay the plastic down on top of the soil and then lay rocks; this way weeds won’t spoil your display.

Landscape fabric

Similar to plastic sheeting, landscape fabric is an easy way to keep weeds from growing and can help insulate your soil. Fortunately, unlike plastic, water and nutrients can pass through the fabric which means it is a better long-term solution.

Crushed seashells

Even though seashells come from living organisms, they are considered inorganic mulch because they don’t break down into nutrients. If you live near the ocean, they are a free source of mulch but if you have to purchase them, they can be expensive.

Seashells are an excellent addition to planters and containers. However, they should be avoided near pathways as the sharp surfaces can be painful under the feet.

Rubber pellets

You are more likely to see rubber mulch in playgrounds as the soft, spongy material makes surfaces more accessible for children plus will cushion their falls. This mulch usually comes from discarded tires that have been cleaned and broken down.

Rubber mulch should not be used near plants, especially ones you plan on eating, as the rubber can break down and release toxins into the ground. Instead, use it under a swing set in your backyard or as a pathway.


If you have a walkway and want a natural look to it, adding pea gravel or crushed gravel will do nicely. The small size of these chunks of rock makes it easy to spread out but will still be dense enough to stop weeds from growing.

Benefits of Using Garden Mulch

Garden mulch can seem like the ultimate tool a gardener has and once you understand all its benefits, it becomes easy to see why. If you aren’t in the habit of adding mulch to your garden, we highly recommend it.

Organic mulch, such as straw, compost, grass, leaves, and bark, will all break down over time. These nutrients are slowly added to the soil which then nourishes your plants.

Inorganic mulch, such as gravel, seashells, and landscape fabric, provides a barrier so that weeds can’t grow. With a bit of initial effort in placing the mulch, you can have an area in your yard that doesn’t require too much maintenance.

What is the best mulch for garden beds?

The best mulch for garden beds is actually constructed layers. You can start with a layer of compost to provide nutrients to your garden right away. Then, you can add crushed leaves which will also naturally decompose.

Finally, to make your garden look neater, you can add a layer of bark mulch for a more stylish design. The layers will stop weeds and have a continuous input of nutrients into the soil.

What is the best mulch to prevent weeds?

Bark mulch is the best organic mulch for preventing weeds. It has a thicker texture to it than other types of mulch so it will better cover the soil and prevent sunlight from getting through.

What type of mulch is best for a vegetable garden?

Organic mulch is the best for a vegetable garden as it won’t produce toxins as it breaks down. Straw, compost, and bark mulch are all good.

If you are starting a vegetable garden out in the early spring and are worried about your soil temperature, then adding a layer of plastic will help insulate the area. Poke holes for your plants to grow through and then remove the plastic once the weather warms up.


Mulch has many benefits, including insulating soil, preventing weeds from growing, and bringing nutrients to the soil. Inorganic mulches are ideal if you want to create an area free from weeds while organic mulches help create soil that is full of life and health for your plants.

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