Mulch is your hard-working gardening ally — it adds beauty to your landscape, it's great for your garden because it helps your soil hold moisture, and it saves you time by keeping weeds at bay. On top of all of that, it's inexpensive and easy to use, too!

Mulch Basics

Which type of mulch should you use? That depends on your needs and the aesthetic you want to give your landscape.

Organic mulches, like wood chips, cocoa bean hulls or cedar, will slowly decay into your soil over time, providing nutrients for your plants. However, organic mulch has to be replaced every few years, sometimes every year. Along with that, it's light and can blow away in high winds.

Inorganic mulches, like stones, lava rock and crushed marble are heavier than organic mulches, so they'll stay put. Think carefully about where you want to use them though, because once they're in place, they're difficult to move. Stones and crushed rock don't biodegrade, so you won't have to replace them often, if ever. Be aware, there's another side to that coin, because they don't biodegrade, they won't add any nutrients to your soil or nourish your plants.

Here are a few common types of mulches and their uses:

Types of mulch

Wood chips

This mulch lasts for up to three years, and is widely available. Wood chips come in a variety of colors, from dark brown to cedar to red to black, and different sizes, finely shredded to chunky. Wood chips create a natural look in your landscape, and they're ideal for slopes and informal paths as well.

Cocoa bean hulls

This type of mulch add a dark, rich look to your garden and gives off an intoxicating chocolate fragrance that is especially nice near outdoor seating. Be warned: If you have a dog, cocoa might not be the right choice for you. It can be harmful, even deadly, to your pet.


Gives your landscape a golden hue and is great for vegetable gardens because it will keep the mud out of your edibles. Till it under the soil at the end of the season. However, choose carefully. Some straw mulch is home to unwanted hitchhikers — weed seeds. You'll wind up with more weeding, not less.

Red lava rock

These rocks add a noticeable look to flower beds, planters, walkways and drainage areas. They're heavy and will stay put.

White marble

Has the consistency of gravel. It's heavy, so it won't blow away in high winds like wood chips might. Also, it doesn't biodegrade, so it won't have to be replaced often. Marble is high in pH, which will leach into the soil over time, so don't use it around the type of plants that like acidic soil.

River pebbles

These give your garden a dramatic look and, like marble, won't blow away or biodegrade. However, stones won't nourish your garden like organic mulch does. But a word to the wise about stone mulch: It gets hot, so it's not ideal for gardens with tender plants that don't enjoy the heat. Many people use it in cactus gardens.

Mulch dos and don'ts

It's not "set it and forget it" when you're mulching. Here are some best practices and things to avoid:

DO let aesthetics take front and center

There's great artistry in gardening, and mulch is a big aspect of it. Choose a style and color of mulch that will compliment the exterior colors of your home, and the colors in your garden. Dark or black mulch can give flowers a dramatic bed, while cedar chips are ideal as a garden path through the woods.

DON'T overdo it or use too little

Two to four inches is the rule of thumb for most mulches. Too much and you'll drown your plants in mulch, too little and you won't reap the rewards.

DO include your trees

Putting a ring of mulch around the base of your tree trunks, especially if they're young trees, will help protect them from other plants and from mowers.

At Fleet Farm, when it comes to mulch, we've got you covered!