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Type of Mulch – What’s Best for Your Garden Beds?

Not all mulch is created equal. Some mulch enriches your soil, while others trap heat and damage your roots. It’s important to select the right mulch for your garden bed based on your budget, landscaping goals, and overall aesthetic. Let’s review the different types of mulch so you can make an informed decision.

Pros and Cons of Organic Mulch

Organic mulch refers to any mulch that can break down and feed your garden bed. This may include natural materials, such as pine needles or leaves, or it may reference bagged organic mulch. Many of the bagged options come in specially-dyed colors to help your landscaping pop. The dyes are perfectly safe for plants, but they may fade with prolonged sun exposure.

Organic mulch is less expensive than most other mulch options upfront, but it does require routine top-off to replenish the volume. This mulch is great for soil cultivation and plant feeding, but it isn’t considered ‘hassle-free.’ Pests can feed on certain types of organic mulch, but you can combat that by adding cedar chips into your mulch beds. Overall, this is a great option for most garden beds, even if it comes with some flaws.

Pros and Cons of Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is designed to look like organic mulch, but it is made out of plant-safe rubber. The rubber chips do not break down like organic materials do, so you don’t have to worry about topping off your mulch beds.

Rubber mulch is slightly more expensive than organic mulch, but the long-term costs are low. However, some homeowners have issues with the rubber mulch floating and shifting in heavy rainfall. The rubber can also trap heat around the plant roots, which may harm certain types of plants. We typically prefer organic or rock mulch over rubber mulch for our landscape designs.

Pros and Cons of Compost Mulch

Compost mulch is made from composting natural materials, such as fall leaves or natural Christmas trees (See: Can Fall Leaves Be Composted?). The composting process takes several months to complete, and many homeowners do not have the time or space to cultivate their own compost mulch. If you do have this option though, compost is incredibly rich in nutrients. Most of the materials are free yard clippings from your own yard, so the cost is next to nothing. This is an inexpensive way to feed your garden beds or enrich other mulch options.

Pros and Cons of Rock Mulch

Rock mulch consists of small stones. They are available in almost every color combination, but river rocks and white rocks are particularly common. White rock mulch can help your landscaping really pop, but the white also reflects sunlight. This may burn the leaves of your bushes or make the garden bed too hot for plants to thrive.

Many homeowners like using rock mulch because it does not require much upkeep. The downside is that the rocks make soil cultivation tedious or nearly impossible to do. With organic mulch, you can churn the soil at least once a year. That’s not as easy with rock mulch.

The rocks also cost much more upfront than organic mulch. You can save in the long run because you do not have to replace the materials, but this may significantly increase your initial landscaping budget.

How to Choose the Right Mulch for Your Garden Beds

Whether you want a nutrient-rich mulch or something that lasts year-after-year, there is a product out there for you. Compare the costs, appearance and overall benefits of each option to find the best mulch for your garden bed.

The landscape designers at Berns Landscaping would love to help you plan your dream garden. We’ll guide you through every selection, from mulch to pavers to the precise plants that will thrive on your property. Give us a call at (586) 756-1145 to schedule your landscape design consultation.