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Which types of mulch are usable?

Editor\'s note: Most mulches (especially composted leaves) will give off heat as they are decomposed over time. Bacteria reduce the mulch, and make mulch nutrients available to the plant. This process gives off heat - so keep mulch away from the plant stem.

Bark (chips): Long lasting, but can be expensive. The larger the pieces, the longer they last. Spread about 2 inches deep, and add nitrogen to the soil before applying the mulch.

Bark (shredded): Long lasting, and somewhat expensive. Spread 3 inches deep and add nitrogen to the soil before applying the mulch.

Buckwheat hulls: Dark brown-black in color, they last about 2 years in the (outdoor) garden. Spread them 2 inches deep.

Cocoa bean hulls: attractive, brown in color, and smell like chocolate for a short time after u spread them, they are expensive. Spread them 2 inches deep.

Compost: Dark brown color, nourishes the soil, weeds will grow right through it (outdoors). Its excellent soil container. Spread it at least 1 to 2 inches deep as mulch.

Corncobs (ground): cheap and available in agricultural areas. Add nitrogen fert to the soil before the spreading of the mulch. Spread 3 to 4 inches thick

Cottonseed hulls: add nitrogen to the soil, are effective in suppressing weeds. But tend to blow around. Apply 4 to 4 inches deep, or use 2 inches of this mulch and cover with another heavier mulch.

Hay and straw: lightweight and a good source of organic matter, but compacts over time. Alfalfa and clover hay ads nutes to the soil. Hay may contain weed seeds, especially if its from the first cuttings. Straw contains no weed seeds, but is coarser in texture. Spoiled hay is often available in cheap farm areas. Spread it 4 to 6 inches thick in summer, 8 to 12 in the winter (outdoors)

Leaf mold: decomposed or composted leaves provide good cover and add organic matter to the soil, Good choice for woodland gardens. 2 to 3 inches deep.

Leaves (shredded): unshredded leaves can pack down and resist water penetration, but shredded leaves are effective as a weed suppresser (outdoors) and soil insulator. Good for woodland gardeners especially as winter mulch. Spread 2 to 3 inches deep in summer, 6 to 8 inches in winter (outdoors)

Paper: newspaper laid two to four deep suppresses weeds and decomposes in a year or so. Not pretty to look at so cover with another more attractive mulch is preferred. Make sure ink is made from soy.

Peanut hulls: lightweight and easy to use where available. Spread 2 to 3 inches deep.

Pine needles: Attractive, light and long lasting. Long term use may lower soil pH. Spread 3 to 4 inches thick.

Plastic: warms soil and effectively suppresses weeds (outdoors) but its impertable to moisture except where holes or slits are cut into it. Cover with a more attractive mulch if needed.

Sawdust: inexpensive, acidic, takes nitrogen from soil as it decomposes. Add nitrogen fert before spreading, or compost it before using. Spread 2 inches thick.

Seaweed: can be collected from beaches in coastal locations (free ). Good source of organic matter and trace elements, but can really stink. Soak in fresh water before using. Apply 3 inches deep

Wood chips: pretty attractive and long lasting, but decomposes faster than bark. Add nitrogen to soil before spreading. Apply 2 to 3 inches deep

Permanent Mulching

This is a a great technique for those outdoors growers, specially if you dont live close to your grow area. Permanent mulch gardening has been around since bout the 70s.

In this method the garden is covered wit one or more organic mulches as much as a foot deep. As the mulch decomposes, fresh mulch is added. The mulch stays in place all year. At planting time, the mulch is set aside as plants or seeds are put into the ground then is replaced as plants grow.
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