Type of mulch to use for vegetable garden

fishman22May 17, 2010

Does anyone have suggestions on the type (pine, cypress, etc.) of mulch is best for vegetable gardens?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Neither pine, cypress or any other wood mulch for a vegetable garden - many associated problems. Personally I use straw, hay, and/or leaf mold. You can also find many suggestions on the proper mulches to use and what to avoid over on the Soil & Mulch forum here.

Link below is to a discussion on this from further down the page - earlier this week - which many suggestions in it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Best mulch for vegetable garden discussion

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 6:26PM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

I just used pine straw in my beds. So far I am extremely impressed. It was a windy day and it didn't blow away. It was very easy to handle and looks great. Now, if it works as good as it looks ...

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 6:43PM
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I agree with digdirt.

I just put out mulched-up leaves over half of my front garden. It makes a nice, earthy smell and also will help fertilize the plants when watering.

The leaves were collected last fall in large garbage containers exactly for this use. I have half of a container left to do the other part of the garden once the Silver Queen corn decides to all come up!

Here is a link that might be useful: BsnTech Gardening Blog

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 9:46PM
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How about rice hulls?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 1:23AM
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any material that will block weeds and retain moisture is a great material to use. Some materials harbor pests, others add to the soil maybe something you dont want such as increasing acidity. personally, I like the use of newspaper or moisture barrier and then covered with compost or mulch of some kind. These items prevent light from reaching the weeds and do great retaining moisture. the newspaper can even be tilled into the soil after use.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 5:37AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

Often, the best choice of mulch depends on where you are. Salt hay, sea weed, pine straw, wheat straw, various byproducts of food processing and other good mulch materials are available cheap or free in certain localities. Outside those localities, the same materials can be costly. Keep your eyes and ears open to find out what gardeners in your area are using that doesn't come in plastic bags.


    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 10:15AM
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Wood chips are in fact great, but not for all veggies. Amongst other things, you need to replace them every two or three years only. They hold moisture better than leaves or straw, and they are free. But I use them only for solanaceae, cucurbitae, beans, garlic, and some brassica. No greens, no root crops, no peas, no onions. For one mulch fits all, leaves are best. They need to be reapplied every year.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:25PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I've used woodchips for 10 years or more. I think their only downside is they may insulate the soil some, so it may take longer to warm up. I have 0 weed problems, and the soil it breaks down into is great. I also have about 10 different types of mushrooms growing in my garden bed after a good rain. The amount of mycelium growing under the surface is amazing, not to mention the worms that inhabit my beds.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 9:31PM
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cabrita(9b SoCal)

I so agree with jimster about using what one has! I have mulched in different ways, ground up leaves and clippings (the brown layer that I also use in my compost) are good. If I had pine needles i would use them too, since some beds need to be kept acidic - blueberries for one.

In any case, this year i am doing something different, but not so different. Leaves are leaves....right? so I am using a whole bunch of chopped up oregano and mint. Both have gone rampant and needed to be severely 'harvested'. They filled up two large baskets so far, i got most of my tomatoes mulched with these chopped up herbs. When they are in the ground growing oreganos act as living mulch and nicely protect crops from many insects, it worked wonderfully with the collards and cauliflowers. Mint detracts several insects and also ants. Even if I just keep my dogs and squirrels away that is good!

Not sure it will act to deter bad insect pests, but it should work as any mulch would, and I have lots of it. Use what you have, why not?

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 11:43PM
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I agree with Jim, on not using wood mulch.

Based on the availability, Here are my choices:
(#1) wheat straw = hard to find
(#2) Pine straw - plentiful
They both are durable for a season and can make good soil amendment.
(#3) Dried, aged, partially broken leaves. Oak, maple.
Leaves absorb more water and may cause stem roting.

I do not like grass clippings as they then to cake up when dried.
Other source can be your own weeds. Some live, some pulled and thrown back where they came from.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 12:20AM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

You can order pine straw on line. It's bulky but it's light. The shipping about doubles the cost (it's about $30 a bale unshipped, but about $60 a bale shipped). A bale covers about 30 cubic feet, so it's not so bad. Living in the city I don't have many low cost or free options (small yard; limited number of fallen leaves annually; no lawn so no grass clippings) - having stuff delivered costs too - so this works out okay for me. It's really a joy to work with and looks great.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 9:09AM
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jimster(z7a MA)

FWIW, I didn't intend to disparage the use of wood mulch, although it will deplete nitrogen as it breaks down. But that is no different from many mulches. You need to provide nitrogen in some form when mulch starts decomposing. Fresh grass clippings are an exception because they are a source of nitrogen.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 10:41AM
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FrankTank in Wisconsin, I'd like to hear more about your use of wood chips. Do they remain on top of the soil? What size chips do you use? Where did they come from? Oak, maple, pine, ash?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 3:34PM
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memphisminnie(Mid-South 7)

no pine wood Dave? I used pine needles with good success last year (free from the neighbbors trees). But was it a fluke?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:20AM
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