Mulching is one of the best things you can do to reduce maintenance and can provide added benefits for soil and plants. Organic mulches not only help control weeds, they also moderate soil temperature, retain moisture and protect roots. Here are 10 budget-friendly mulches to try:
- Cocoa-bean hulls: A byproduct of the chocolate industry, cocoa hulls work in the garden. Use a 1-inch layer to suppress weeds. (Don't use if you have dogs. There is evidence they can be toxic to canines.)
- Stone or gravel: A wide variety of types, sizes and colors exist for aesthetic purposes. Use a weed barrier underneath.
- Cardboard: This is an inexpensive way to suppress weeds and recycle paper. Use it on garden paths.
- Grass clippings (herbicide-free): Inexpensive and readily available, grass clippings are great garden helpers. In spring, cover the ground with 2 inches of clippings. Add more layers through the season.
- Wood chips or shredded bark: Many types are available, some of them for free from your local municipality or utility company. To maintain the best weed control, you'll want to apply a 3-inch layer.
- Pecan and almond shells: One industry's byproduct is another's resource. Use a thin 1-inch layer for best results.
- Shredded rubber: Made from old tires and dyed to look natural, this mulch is soft, pliable and long-lasting. It's excellent for use on paths and play areas.
- Pine needles: All evergreen needles make excellent mulch. Rake the excess from beneath your trees and move it into the garden for a light covering. Use a 1- to 2-inch layer for best results.
- Shredded leaves: Fall leaves shredded with a mower make suitable mulch for all plants. They break down very quickly, so use a 2- to 3-inch layer or combine the leaves with another type of mulch.
- Worn-out cotton throw rugs: An old bathroom rug can be put to use in annual gardens and pathways. Simply lay it over bare soil, whole or cut in pieces, to control even the worst of weeds.