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The Home Depot

Golden Rules of Mulching

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Landscaping > Golden Rules of Mulching
Golden Rules of Mulching

Spreading mulch around is a great way to keep weeds from making a home in your flower beds and around trees. It also helps keep moisture from evaporating in the soil. There are quite a wide variety of mulch choices available. The downside is that while they help protect shallow root systems, they also become homes to soil organisms and bugs.

  1. 1.Inorganic Mulch

    When is mulch not really mulch? When it’s not organic. Some folks use all types of recycled materials like crushed stone, colored glass, polyethylene sheeting and the like. Should you decide to go for pebbles, etc., you’ll want to put a layer of polyethylene under the materials. This will keep weeds from sprouting amidst the inorganic mulch.

  2. Creating a compost bin will let you make your own mulch. Add wood chips, leaves, bark and wood to the area you’ve set aside.
  3. 2.Organic Mulch

    Organic mulches have a quality that inorganic stuff doesn’t. It breaks down and can enrich the soil. Examples of organic mulch can be found in grass clippings, chipped bark, peat, leaves, manure, vegetable scraps and straw.

  4. 3.Depth of Mulch

    If you’re using chunks of cedar, put them about 5-inches below the surface. They’re bigger and need additional time to breakdown. Same holds for other large organic materials like egg shells, banana peels or things that have gone to rot in your refrigerator’s crisper section.


    Grass clippings should be used only an inch-or-so down. You don’t want to use toxic materials where you’d like to grow good things.

  5. 4.Separate From The Plant

    You want to keep the mulch separated from the plant. Putting it too close to decomposing materials can breed diseases that could infect the existing growth.

  6. 5.Separate From Your House

    The wood that’s used to build your house can be severely damaged by termites. These wood-eaters love moisture. Mulch harbors wetness. Just because you think your foundation is concrete or cement, timber isn’t all that far away.


    Another solution might be to take the area in question and fill it with topsoil. Surround the plot with a border of larger rocks. Finally, put about an inch of pea gravel over the dirt. Plant some plants.

  7. 6.Applying Mulch

    When you apply a layer of organic mulch around your plants, here is a list of things to consider:


    • The best time to spread mulch is late winter/early spring

    • Never mulch when the ground is frozen

    • Before laying-down the mulch, soak the area

    • Before mulching, feed the plants

    • Too much mulch will stifle bulbs because ground stays cooler than exposed dirt

  8. 7.Other Considerations

    Take an inventory of the soil and the plants and soil where you’d like to mulch. How’s the drainage? What type of covering might enhance the growth of the plants? Do those plants grow well in an acidy soil or do they require lime? Most available mulch is pretty neutral and can be applied just about anywhere.


    If you already have a cover of mulch, rake it to break it up. Avoid mulch that’s smells sour. Also, be aware that some products are dangerous to pets. Read the warnings carefully or ask the person selling the mulch if the stuff is animal-friendly.


    Creating a compost bin will let you make your own mulch. Add wood chips, leaves, bark and wood to the area you’ve set aside. Let it set for a month, then turn it over. Give it a little more time. Repeat the mixing process and shovel as much as you need into a wheelbarrow. Presto! DIY mulch.


    Whether you make your own or buy organic mulch from a gardening supply store, you’re feeding the earth with natural nutrients. You’re infusing your soil with life that your plants – and your eyes – will enjoy.

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