Birds & Blooms

Choose Mulch

Pick materials with the biggest benefits for your yard.



A useful byproduct of the chocolate industry, cocoa bean hulls work in a variety of landscapin­g styles and don’t compact over time. Use an inch-deep layer to help suppress weeds, but find another option if you have dogs—just like chocolate, the hulls are also toxic.


Recycle leaves for a quick way to put nutrients back into your beds. Shred with a lawnmower and use a 1- to 3-inch layer. Leaves may blow away with the wind, so consider taking the time to create a simple leaf compost for better results.


If you have conifers on your property, the fallen foliage makes excellent mulch. Rake out extra needles from under the tree and transfer a 1- to 2-inch layer to your beds. Contrary to popular belief, evergreen needles do not make soils more acidic.


Look for medium and large chunks for the base of trees and shrubs. Bark is very attractive, comes in many colors and offers excellent weed resistance. Just keep the bark a few inches away from plant crowns and buildings to avoid ant and rodent damage.


Wood chips come in many forms, stay in place in windy conditions, and can be very inexpensiv­e. Ask your local municipali­ty or utility company—it may give chips away for free. Pile on a 3-inch layer for weed-fighting benefits.


Fabulous for plants that need tons of drainage, rock or gravel is an attractive option that needs little maintenanc­e. The downside: These materials don’t improve the soil structure, add nutrients or regulate temperatur­es as organic mulches do.

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