When I see bare earth garden beds I cringe for the plants! Not only is that beautiful top layer of soil exposed to erosion and direct heat from the sun, but weeds are given free run. It really doesn’t matter what material is used to cover the soil as long as it allows water through, allows the soil to “breathe” (worms to poke their heads out at night time) and is preferably organic. Some people use pebbles as mulch – this can work for water retention and weed suppression; however, organic mulch will break down providing added nutrient for the soil. For this reason, shredded bark and tree mulch are really popular. Also, they look great. Any mulch with a reddish hue will really contrast and bring out the green colour in the foliage (see the photo for example). Here are some of the pros and cons of the popular bulk mulches:

1”Hoop: this mulch is often specified on large landscape jobs because it used to be the only good option for embankments – it holds well on a gradient. It also lasts a long time, looks great and keeps its’ colour well. Unfortunately high demand has driven the price up, and as it is a by-product, supply can be sporadic for much of the year.  

Red Cypress Mulch is a blend of the ground-up bark and chip pieces of the Cypress, a beautiful premium, ever popular mulch which has added natural termite resistance. On a landscape job, the red-brown colour really looks great against green foliage, and lasts similarly to 1"Hoop, but it doesn’t have the supply issues. 

The other Cypress mulches are: Cypress Chip which has very good termite resistance is among the longest lasting of mulches and is an economical choice, and Coloured Red Cypress.

Tea Tree: This mulch has a great smell and is a nice brown colour.

Pine Barks: Available as softfall, 1” or 2-4”, pine barks provide a very long lasting, formal appearance.

Forest Mulch: A fully recycled product, forest mulch is mulched trees of any kind. Unlike other mulches, the type of trees used to create forest mulch varies and is often unknown and mixed. This can be great as it provides different and varied nutrient once it has broken down. It also keeps the price much cheaper than all other mulches. The appearance of forest mulch is very rustic, like leaf litter or a forest floor appearance.  

Whichever mulch you choose, the investment (mostly time in spreading!) will definitely be worth it in protecting and slowly enhancing your soil, saving your plants from having to compete with weeds (and your back from having to pull them out), and retaining moisture.   

Garden Guru Posted by Garden Guru

Garden Guru. Imagine a Horticultural Gandalf. You're welcome.