Common Types of Mulch for the Landscape

March 3, 2010

Yesterday Marcy Tate joined us to cover the benefits of using mulch in the garden. Today she returns to follow up with details on some of the specific mulches available to the home gardener.

First up are some of the common organic mulches that are more natural and will decompose and add organic matter to the soil as they break down:

Wood Chips or Shavings
Garden MulchWood chips are one of the most commonly used types of mulch. It is best to choose older, decomposed wood mulch. Wood mulch that has not properly aged can contain toxins that are harmful to young plants. Some disadvantages include the quick decomposition of wood shavings and the possible attraction of termites.

Bark is another popular type of organic mulch. It is one of the most attractive mulch materials. Common types of bark mulch include pine, cedar and cypress. Bark mulch is available as nuggets, shredded, or in chunks. The nuggets provide the best level of weed prevention. High quality cedar mulch is one of the most expensive types of mulch.

Pine Needles
Pine needles are one of the less expensive types of mulch. They are long lasting and attractive. Pine needles allow water to get to the soil easily.

Stone, Gravel, Pebbles and Crushed Stone
One of the best benefits of stone mulch is that it is long lasting. Colored stones can add additional color to your landscape. A 1-inch layer of small rocks will provide good weed control. Be aware that light shades of stone will reflect heat back up towards plants, which may be harmful.

Landscape Fabric
Landscape fabric is also known as geotextile. The fabric is better than plastic because it allows air and moisture to penetrate into the soil. It is considered the best non-living mulch for long-term use. Landscape fabric is very effective at controlling weeds. Some grass may grow through the tiny holes in the fabric.

Recycled Rubber
Recycled rubber is used for many outdoor products, from patio tiles to mulch. Recycled rubber is often used in playgrounds as it provides a soft alternative to wood chips. Recycled rubber has many of the same benefits as organic mulch, including helping to retain moisture, moderating soil temperature and adding beauty to your landscape. It is available in many colors and won’t fade.

Many thanks to Marcy for sharing her landscaping tips. This is just a partial list of potential garden mulches, and don’t pass on the homegrown sources right in your own neighborhood such as shredded leaves, grass clippings, utility limb chippings, and mulch produced at municipal recycling centers.

Marcy Tate is a passionate gardener and home improvement diva who works her magic armed with nothing but a hammer, screwdriver, and crazy glue! She recently relocated to Wyoming, has worked with landscaping contractors for over a decade, and can be found blogging at

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  • If you were into organic gardening, I’d say skip the rubber mulch. It’s not necessarily environmental because old rubber tires leach zinc into the soil and can cause imbalance in the level of the soil’s alkalinity.

    And rubber mulch will break down but it won’t really add any good to the soil. It’s simply not an organic matter.

  • Hi Nova,

    Thank you for pointing that out reg. the negative effects of rubber mulch. I have never used it, but understood from research and speaking to others that the recycled rubber is a good choice. However, your comments make a good point and I’ll reconsider it an an organic mulch option. Thanks for the info.

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