Weedless Gardening: Mulch Guide

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Weedless Gardening: Mulch Guide

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Mulch Type






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.