To mulch or not to mulch, that is the question

As forward-thinking gardeners, it's common to ponder the question: to mulch or not to mulch? And if so, what materials should I use? It's important to take into account both the benefits and drawbacks of this technique in order to safeguard your plants and maximize their growth potential. 
In this article, we'll delve into all the crucial factors you need to consider when it comes to mulching. So keep reading if you want to get the full scoop on this essential gardening practice.

Often mulch is mistakenly seen as a panacea for all garden woes: it should protect plants from drought, should free the owner from weeding, and should improve soil quality. It seems like pure benefit! However, not all mulch is good for your garden.

What makes mulch good

For mulch to be useful for the garden, it must simultaneously meet the following requirements:
  • It should retain moisture well;
  • Inhibit the growth of weeds;
  • Increase soil nutrients and promote the reproduction of beneficial microorganisms;
  • Decompose slowly and thus gradually improve the quality of the soil.
And what material to choose?

Excellent materials suitable for mulching

There is a vast selection of materials that meet the aforementioned requirements, so there are options available to suit all preferences and budgets. Let's take a look at some of the most popular choices:

Bark of conifers

The bark of pine or larch is most often used in mulching. It is an environmentally friendly material that has high decorative properties, and it makes the soil more moisture- and air-permeable. 

This material is easy to find on sale. But the disadvantages of bark include: reducing the amount of nitrogen and increasing the acidity of the soil. Also, over time it is necessary to renew this type of mulch due to its decomposition.
Most often used in ornamental garden areas and under trees.


This is a great and very budget-friendly mulching option. Advantages include excellent moisture retention, weed growth retardation, and decorative appearance.
Some gardeners fear that the soil will begin to wilt under a layer of straw. But this is only partially true for greenhouse conditions.
With straw you can mulch fruit plants and flowers. But it is not recommended to use it in greenhouses and mulch shrubs, especially young ones.
Note: Straw is the dried stalks of cereal crops like wheat, barley, and oats after the grain has been harvested. It's a lightweight, hollow material that's often used for animal bedding or as a component in compost.


This type of mulch looks very aesthetic and decorative. Convenient to use, but only in flower beds and preferably with perennials that will grow in the same places for many years. It is unlikely that you will want to carry heavy stones from place to place every year.

Of the disadvantages, first of all, you can note the high price. Also requires prior preparation of the base and it is advisable to first cover the ground with a special cloth. Also, cleaning this material and keeping it clean creates problems. 
Mulching the garden with this material is undesirable.


Cardboard is an affordable material that can be an excellent option for protecting against weeds if it's dense enough. When cardboard isn't laminated, it can decompose naturally and even attract worms to the soil, while simultaneously deterring ants, which is beneficial for gardening purposes.
One of the drawbacks of cardboard as a mulching material is its poor appearance, as it doesn't have the aesthetic appeal of other options. Additionally, cardboard needs to be held in place, which requires an additional material to secure it. However, it can work wonderfully as a substrate for other mulching materials, such as pebbles.

Agricultural non-woven covering material

This is a highly popular method of mulching. The covering material can be layered both on top and underneath other materials, such as decorative pebbles for added aesthetic appeal.
It has a number of advantages: gets rid of weeds in the garden, helps retain moisture, helps perennials survive the winter and this material is easy to find at an affordable price.

Of the disadvantages, it does not have a very attractive appearance. Another disadvantage is that it will not save from very large weeds. And also it is that it is easily lifted by the wind and you have to think about what to hold it in place.

As mulch you can also use: compost, pine needles, sphagnum moss, grass clippings, coconut fiber.

How do you know if the mulch is bad? 

If you have doubts about your material, here's a list of things to avoid:
  • Mulch particles stick together and don't allow air and moisture to pass through (such as sawdust or bark from nonconiferous trees);
  • Mulch reduces biological activity beneath its layer (e.g., glass and plastic);
  • Mulch contains debris, weed seeds, and hazardous chemicals (e.g., rubber or mowed weeds you are trying to get rid of).

Choosing the right mulch for your garden is a crucial task that can either benefit or harm your plants. It's always best to prioritize the health of your plants over the convenience of having a weed-free garden. However, it's even better to find a balance between the two. By selecting a suitable mulch, you can ensure the health of your garden and be rewarded with a bountiful harvest.
And if you still have any queries, feel free to ask your personal advisor - AI-Assistant.