Mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool, prevent frost heaving in winter, and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s structure, drainage, and nutrient-holding capacity as they decompose.

It can be many different materials, some being organic, others man-made. Cost, availability, aesthetics, ease of use are all important when choosing a mulch.

Mulch is not completely maintenance-free. Dust, dirt and seeds will blow into any mulch. It is important to remove weeds as soon as they germinate to keep the mulch pristine.

Peat moss

Peat moss works best in vegetable gardens, annual and perennial beds given that the plants will keep the peat moss in place. Works well as a winter mulch. It is best to mix in soil or with another mulch such as straw or grass clippings.


  • Readily available in two or four cubic foot bails
  • Lightweight and easy to spread
  • Improves soil structure
  • Absorbs and holds moisture
  • Easy to work into the soil
  • Rarely weedy


  • Lightweight; blows in the wind if it is dry
  • Hard to moisten once it becomes dry
  • It is widely considered a non-renewable resource, though new peat accumulates naturally in more than replacement amounts

Coconut fiber or chips

Coconut husk is starting to replace peat moss. Like peat moss, it insulates plants during the winter months. It is best to incorporate in soils that need hydration and in containers.


  • Lightweight and easy to spread
  • Improves the soil structure
  • Absorbs and holds moisture – up to three times as much as peat.
  • Easy to work into the soil
  • Never weedy
  • Breaks down very slowly (five to seven years)
  • A renewable resource
  • Winter mulch can be worked into the soil
  • Easier to rehydrate than peat moss


  • Light weight and blows in the wind if it is dry
  • Expensive unless recycled from a hydroponics operation
  • Not always available

Wood chips

Wood chips are ideal for spreading around shrubs, trees and long-term perennials.

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