Creative Mulch Alternatives

Garden Work:4
Image by England via Flickr

Finding Mulch Alternatives
There are a number of mulch alternatives to bark mulch. For the organic landscaper, a good eye for natural mulch alternatives can be far less expensive than having to purchase mulch every growing season. Take note of the possibilities for mulch alternatives in your own backyard. Trees shed their leaves as do many conifers. This can mean a good supply of mulch alternatives. Grass clippings can only be used as mulch if the clippings are added to other types of mulching ingredients. The reason for this is that grass clippings do not have a free circulation of oxygen and actually can build up methane gas in larger volumes. In addition, grass clippings from lawn that have had chemical fertilizers or herbicides shouldn’t be used on fruit and vegetable gardens, nor around the base of certain flowers, shrubs and trees, depending on the strength of the chemicals in the compound. Read all herbicide and fertilizer labels carefully in order to ascertain the strength of chemicals contained in it.

Check around the bases of pine and other deciduous conifers with short needles. In the natural process, these trees shed their needles and provide a good mulch alternative that protects their own roots and make a great mulch alternative for other trees and shrubs. Be aware, though, that pine needles do contain minimal amounts of pine tars in the sap. For some flowering plants, this can be a problem.

Tips To Mulch Alternatives
In most cases, the best mulch alternative is one that combines several ingredients that have been allowed to decay slightly. As an example, in winter, many gardeners use straw as a protection for their bedding plants. However straw can be combined with pine needles and leaves to make a good mulch alternative for rainy seasons in many place. It protects the roots from receiving too much moisture that can cause rot. Straw mulch can be purchased in most gardening centers. It’s a great insulator for harsh winter temperatures. Another feature of straw as a mulch alternative is that is has a clean, pleasant odor other mulch alternatives may not.

Cocoa Bean Hulls – Use With Care
For the home landscaper with a cat or dog, using cocoa bean hulls as an alternative mulch can be hazardous. It may contain high levels of theobromine which is toxic in higher concentrations. Before buying cocoa bean hulls for mulching, read labels carefully, especially if your pet loves the intoxicating scent of chocolate. In addition, theobromine makes cocoa bean hulls slightly more acidic. For some flowering plants and shrubs, this can be a problem. Cocoa bean hulls, like some other types of mulch alternatives may produce a surface mold as it ages. This is a result, in most cases, of too much moisture. The reason most gardeners purchase cocoa bean hulls is the chocolate aroma it imparts.

Mulch Alternatives For A Healthy Garden
Mulch alternatives like small marble rocks and wood chips can help keep weeds at bay. In addition, they help reduce the need for constant watering. When researching mulch alternatives, consider the types of plants, trees and shrubs where the mulch will be used.

Read More: Mulch & Mulch Basics

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