Organic Mulch – 8 Best Types for Your Yard

Have you ever heard about the term “organic mulch”? Well, it is actually your fairy godmother for your garden, especially a vegetable garden, to provide a healthy picnic than ever. Organic mulches blanket your garden soil and protect the lawn from weed growth, and dying winds in several ways.

Although any organic or inorganic mulch also covers the soil structure not being attacked by erosion, only an organic mulch can provide enough soil nutrients and organic matter that plants are seeking. There are common types of organic mulch available that you can choose from wood chips, straw, pine bark, compost pile, or hay mulch.

Now, we will find out deeply what the benefits of organic mulch are and which type of it would be better for your lawn.

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Organic mulch is any type of mulch blanket that is laid on top of the soil. It includes pine straw, wood chips, and shredded leaves that keep the health of the soil to increase the growth of vegetable plants and flower beds. Not only so, but the organic mulch also covers the soil surface as a decorative feature in your garden.

inorganic mulch

Organic and inorganic mulches are different from each other by their materials. While organic ones have been made from any natural and synthetic, inorganic mulches are made out of materials that do not decompose like gravel, landscape fabric, and stones. That’s why the mulch of organic materials is able to strengthen the plant roots.

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You will absolutely be surprised by a ton of benefits of using organic mulches to improve soil structure and how it provides nutrients for your plants!

Prevent Weed Seeds

weed germination

An organic mulch won’t eliminate weeds completely but keep them under shaded and moist. This will help you save time to pull weed roots easily. Whenever weed seeds germinate under the mulch, they don’t get any light and moisture to grow as other plants. A thick layer of mulch acts as a barrier to discourage weeds to reach sunlight.

In this way, you will control weeds as much as you can in the future. It is so much easier to pull weed away.

Keep the Soil Moisture

When covering the soil with a mulch layer, the evaporation of water will proceed much slower. This means you won’t need to water regularly since the organic mulch helps conserve soil moisture in the soil and reduce the cost of watering in your house.

Protect from Extreme Soil Temperatures

When you’re living in a place where the weather is so extreme that you’re worried whether your vegetable plants could live over those days. And organic mulch is a solution! It acts like an insulator that helps soil cool and moisture during the heat of summer and keeps the soil from freezing in the winter.

However, if you’re living in a cold climate, gardeners will avoid using organic mulches because they will prevent soil from warming up and reaching the sun’s rays. In this case, a landscape fabric or plastic mulch would be better.

mulch in cold climates

Keep Plants Clean

By filling the empty spaces around the plants, a mulch would reduce the chance of soil splashing onto leaves. This means you can feel safe when cutting down a significant amount of soil-borne plant diseases and give a decorative look to the landscape.


Organic mulch is such a wonderful solution that doesn’t cost you a cent. You even can choose any types of mulch which comes from a free source in your own yard waste. But more importantly, you must choose the right natural mulches to fit your lawn and lay it compacted enough to get the best result.


Types of Organic Mulches

Below are some types of organic mulch that we recommend along with its pros and cons for you to consider:

Bark and Wood Chips

wood chips

Bark and wood chips are common types of mulch at suppressing weeds and create a beautiful look in doing so. They are so excellent that they make the effect to prevent weed growth, erosion, and insulate the soil. You can get wood chips for free from aged bark at the flower garden in many sizes.

The small the wood chip size is, the more it is in place. Because the larger chips could be blown away when there are big storms along with winds. However, the larger wood chip mulch lasts more than the smaller one which could be decayed quickly.

Inside the wood chips, they contain tree bark, leaves, and inner wood. Sometimes, they could be dyed with some colors such as black, brown, or red to have a more decorative look for vegetable gardens. Because of its diversity in sizes and texture, wood chip mulch helps to reduce the compaction and increase biological diversity so that the soil health could be improved in the long term.

Bark Chips

Wood chippings decay to create the best mulch for trees and shrubs, or flower beds. You should lay the mulch depth of about 2 – 4 inches, depending on its size and type, and the health of the ground. The larger ones may be more deeply.

  • Advantages: be inexpensive or even free, add more organic matters for perennial plantings, slow down the evaporation of water, suppress weeds, and moderate soil temperature. It can also reserve the soil compaction, making the garden more attractive with its natural look.

  • Disadvantages: wood chips could contain some harmful pesticides that harm your ecosystem in the gardens. Some fresh wood might make nitrogen deficiency on the soil surface and attract termites or roaches.

Pine Needles

pine needles

Pine needles (known as pine straw) are a light mulch layer that is best for orchards, especially blueberries. Pine needles are low nutrients but more persistent than hardwood leaves. If you have some pine trees in your garden, rake some fallen leaves up and use them as pine needles mulch completely free.


Pine needles are especially best for trees with low pHs like tomatoes, blueberries, carrots, and cauliflowers. Pine needles have a long lifespan which could last to 2 years. Over time, they will neutralize so you don’t have to be afraid that these mulch layers will acidify your soil permanently.

The perfect mulch depth is about 2.5 to 4 inches. And it is better to lay these organic mulches in annual, perennial, and acid-loving vegetable garden beds.

  • Advantages: add acidity to soil, resist compaction, reduce the need to aerate, and prevent the evaporation of water, long lifespan. Pine needles are inexpensive and free of weed seeds also, suppress weeds somewhat with a visual appearance.

  • Disadvantages: could be a fire hazard and not suppress weeds as well as other organic mulches, such as wood chips or straw mulch. If there is a thick layer, it might prevent water infiltration.

Hay Mulch

hay mulch

Hay is often used in some regions where the farming system includes almost all of the hay production. You must choose and use hay so carefully so that it will benefit the soil quality without any mistakes. Hay contains more drawbacks that its advantages, however, it is best for small-scale plantings with a thickness of 3 – 4 inches.

  • Advantages: moderate the soil temperatures, prevent soil erosion, allow rain and air to reach the soil, and provide the habitat for weed seed consumers.

  • Disadvantages: could not suppress weeds completely but even contain some weed seeds or herbicide residues, build up excessive soil K levels, and keep the soil too wet/cold that slowing down the growth of plants.

Straw Mulch


Straw mulch is an ideal organic mulch for vegetable gardens, especially newly seeded lawns. Although straw is not the most attractive mulch, it keeps the soil moist in the summer and keeps warm in the cold weather. Also, it provides a home for spiders and some beneficial insects in order for farmers easily to put them under control.

Once the grain is harvested, straw is the dry stalks of grain. The decomposing process of straw is quite slow when you put down the organic mulch in the spring, it can last over the whole growing season and save you a bunch of time.

Lay a straw layer of 2 – 3 inches in depth.

the layer of straw

  • Advantages: protect lawn seeds from being washed away in the newly seeded lawns, and deter rodents and birds from eating these seeds. Like other types of mulch, straw also moderates soil temperatures, prevents the evaporation of water, suppresses weeds well, and adds organic matter. This mulch is also inexpensive when purchased from a reputable provider.

  • Disadvantages: If you apply a thick layer of straw, it will give a perfect hiding place for some unwanted rodents. But a thin layer would be blown around easily. Because straw decomposes rapidly, you need to replenish it annually.

Notice: Be careful when purchasing straw, not hay by mistake. Hay might contain a lot of weed seeds resulting in your vegetable beds being full of weeds!


compost mixture

In most gardens, compost is commonly used as mulch although the quantitative a garden requires might not be economical. The compost is a mixture of organic matter including grass clippings, fallen leaves, food waste, and manure. Compared to other types of mulch, compost contains much higher nutrients for the soil.

We really recommend compost for almost all gardeners because compost can protect the plant roots from extreme weather, insulate the soil and improve the soil texture. In addition, compost also works well with other types of organic layers.


Applying a thin layer of 1 – 2 inches above the top of the soil in vegetable or garden beds, then go over a different mulch, such as bark mulches.

  • Advantages: it is inexpensive and free of weed seeds. Compost allows water and air into the soil to reduce the need to aerate, add organic matter, resist soil compaction, and regulate the soil temperatures.

  • Disadvantages: If you don’t combine compost with other mulch layers to suppress weeds, weed seeds will germinate rapidly in your gardens. Compost is also a fire hazard and attracts unwanted rodents.

Shredded Bark

shredded mulch

If you have drip irrigation under the mulch or you’re living in wet areas, shredded bark or bark mulch that you can get from fallen leaves is best used. You just need a lawnmower and a bag to collect shredded leaves and lay them on top of the soil beneath. Shredded leaves are not considered the most attractive mulch but you can still add them in the spring to welcome a wonderful summer.

Leaf mulch is high in nutrients but shredded bark should be replaced frequently. Or you can use the unshredded leaves to make the soil more compacted – prevent rainfall from past to the soil. You can lay the mulch layer of 2 – 3 inches.

  • Advantages: it is inexpensive and free of weed seeds, adds organic matter, resists soil compaction, and regulates the soil temperature.

  • Disadvantages: when it is too compacted, it will become a tough barrier against water.

Cocoa Hulls

cocoa mulch

Seed hull mulches from cocoa beans are often used in vegetable gardens that can beautify your flower gardens. Cocoa hulls decompose easily for gardeners to apply to the soil. However, don’t use cocoa mulch in a place that your pets can reach since it is regarded as poisonous to dogs.

Although it might be toxic to your dogs, most people tend to likely use cocoa hulls as mulch. With their deep-brown hue and the attractive byproduct of chocolate, cocoa hulls are really impressive to gardeners.

  • Advantages: suppressing weeds strongly with highly visual, reducing the need to aerate, adding organic matter, resisting the soil compaction, and long-lasting

  • Disadvantages: expensive than other types of mulch, toxic to pets if consumed. Cocoa mulch may get moldy and attract pests.

Grass Clippings

grass clippings

Grass clippings are best used on the lawn that you want to prevent as much weed growth. You can use your own lawnmower scraps to cut grass clippings into mulch. This organic mulch can save your time and money because it is free and reduces a large amount of your garden waste.

Grass clippings suppress weeds well, however, they tend to be stinky because they decompose so rapidly. Just apply thin layers of grass clippings in the dry areas and avoid using them in the places where you spend the most time.

If your lawn has been treated with weed killers, like herbicides, you shouldn’t use grass clippings as the mulch in this case. They could become an issue for your plant growth and you need to wait several months. And remember to lay just one-inch mulch of grass clippings.

  • Advantages: easily decompose to spread mulch and provide nutrients to the soil, is free of weed seeds, prevent the evaporation of water, and is eco-friendly.

  • Disadvantages: could be stinky and slimy, hide harmful herbicides, resist compaction at a low level, and spread diseases.

If you’re still not sure which one is good for your garden, let landscape professionals help you to examine and indicate what your landscape is seeking. For more information about Green Arbor Landscaping, here you are:

Don’t hesitate to contact us to get a free estimate at (206) 265-2940!

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