|Bark chips||Purchase in bags at garden centers||Weed-free; long-lasting; moderately good at smothering small weeds; not as good at conserving moisture as most other mulches; attractive to some people|
|Compost||Make your own, get free from yard waste sites, or buy at garden centers||Nutrient-rich; usually weed-free; prevents disease; excellent mulch for vegetable beds|
|Grass clippings||Free whenever you or your neighbors mow; do not use clippings from lawns treated with weedkillers||Usually weed-free; excellent at smothering weeds; thick layers of fresh clippings may heat up, so apply only 1/2-inch thick and not near stems of young plants|
|Hay||Cut your own, collect along roadsides, or buy in bales||May contain weed seeds; good at smothering weeds; salt hay is gathered in marshes and will not bring in weeds|
|Hulls and shells||Bagged for purchase, perhaps free where grown or processed||Includes hulls and shells of peanuts, buckwheat, cocoa bean and rice; weed-free; fairly rich in nutrients; best for smothering weed seedlings or keeping weeds out of weed-free areas; longevity varies|
|Leaves||Free for the raking; from neighbors also||Weed-free except for occasional tree seeds; good at smothering weeds; hold in moisture very well; shred with lawnmower to prevent them from blowing away|
|Pine needles||Rake your own (although your pines would like them left in place); can be bought in some areas||Weed-free; long-lasting; moderately good at smothering weeds; pretty; don’t worry about alleged pH effects|
|Sawdust||Usually free, but can be purchased by the truckload||Weed-free; long-lasting; good at smothering weed seedlings; avoid sawdust from pressure-treated or painted wood|
|Seaweed||Often collected or dumped for free||Weed-free; nutrient-rich; not long-lasting; excellent at smothering weeds when fresh|
|Stone||Usually purchased; various rocks in various colors||Weed-free and essentially nutrient-free; mostly for paths, except perhaps around cactuses and other succulents; lasts almost forever but needs periodic weeding by raking or plucking|
|Straw||Purchase baled||Should be weed-free; replenish annually; very good at smothering weeds and holding soil moisture|
|Wood chips||Purchase or obtain free by truckload||Weed-free; moderately long-lasting; good at smothering weeds|
Learn all about using natural, weed-free garden techniques that will save you time and labor and create a healthier, thriving garden in Weedless Gardening.
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