Anyone Have a Favorite Guide To Mulch?

powerofpi(5A)June 17, 2014

With such a myriad of options out there, I'm wondering what the "best" kind of mulch for me would be. I'd like something which does a bit of weed control, moisture retention, and eventually decomposes into an acidic medium which may help alkaline soil over time. Most of all I'd like it to be inexpensive. I'm in Ames, IA.


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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

'Most of all I'd like it to be inexpensive' ... so use the mulch you can get most easily and for nothing. Leaves, wood chips, cardboard, newspaper, home made compost - makes no difference.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 1:49PM
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Thanks, floral_uk. I do make shredded cardboard, newspaper, and compost at home, but the total quantity doesn't fill what I need. I guess I could hunt for local companies that may have an excess of wood chips/shredded bark? Otherwise I'll certainly be pouncing on the leaves this fall.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:09PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I have 2-3 loads of wood chips from one of my favorite tree companies dropped off at least once a year. For free.

If you are going to call tree companies, please know that they can only make deliveries at their convenience....when they are working in the area. And you don't have much say about what kind of chips.

The deliveries from tree companies won't be shredded bark, but from the whole trees. I've used chips from tree companies for my personal and professional use for over thirty years.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:45PM
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rhizo, that's a sweet arrangement! I would absolutely love to find something like that. I'll ask around.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 2:51PM
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I just discovered that the City of Ames, Iowa keeps a giant free pile of wood chips and utilizes them for the park system. Perfect!

rhizo and floral_uk, you're both geniuses :)

This post was edited by powerofpi on Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 15:21

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 3:20PM
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Power of pi, If you put some fall leaves under those wood chips it helps it all stop those weeds stay at bay, and decomposes slower.Of course that also depends on the amount of rain you get. But with lots of rain the base of fall leaves enriches the soil sooner so it's a win/win.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 1:11AM
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Any material, laid on top of soil, is mulch. How effective any mulch is at helping to suppress unwanted plant growth ("weeds) depends on the thickness, or depth, of that mulch and how well it keeps those unwanted plants from getting the sunlight they need for growth. Shredded leaves, straw, hay, compost, and grass clippings are all good for a vegetable or flower garden, things that will, overtime, add organic matter to the soil.
If you can see soil after applying the material it is not deep enough. Mulches can help suppress unwanted plant growth, aid in soil moisture retention, aid in keeping the soil cooler, and add organic matter to the soil, if properly applied. Most all of those are available either free or at low cost. Wood chips can be used but most often cost money, unless tree cutters will deliver them for free. But wood chips are better used around trees and shrubs.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:31AM
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poaky1, I'll definitely be all over the leaves in the fall. The previous owners of this home never added organic matter to their garden areas, so I'll add anything I can get my hands on. In my case, I'm actually happy if the wood chips decompose! I'll just pile on more.

From what I have read, wood chips (like any carbon-rich material) require nitrogen to decompose well. Because of this, one should NEVER till them into the soil near plants, right? Otherwise the microbes doing the decomposition will hoard all of the nitrogen. Wood chips or mulch on the surface steals nitrogen from the top inch of soil or so, which is perfect for making life difficult for weed seeds but not bothering established plants.

Are my statements accurate? If so, I plan to aggressively add wood chips (plus compost) as a mulch to improve my soil!

    Bookmark   June 18, 2014 at 11:45AM
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