Benefits of Mulch

Benefits of Mulch

Most gardeners, beginners included, understand the importance of proper garden care. We know that our plants need proper watering, our garden beds need proper weeding and the lawn needs proper mowing. However, something that often gets overlooked is mulching. Not everyone quite understands the benefits of mulch. Mulching isn't just for looks-although it doesn't hurt your curb appeal-it's actually a pretty useful garden technique that provides many benefits to our plants.

The Benefits of Mulch

All of the benefits of mulch make a huge difference in your garden. Here in Bismarck, our summers can get pretty hot and dry. While we can take cover inside our air-conditioned homes or head to the pool for a swim, our plants are left to bake in the sun all day long. These conditions can be taxing on their roots, which need plenty of water to sustain the plant.

This is where mulch becomes a life-saver-literally. Mulch is sprinkled over the surface of the ground, in your flower beds, and around your perennials, trees and shrubs to provide an added layer of protection from the sun. Mulch masks the soil around the precious root zones of your favorite plants, blocking the sun from evaporating moisture as quickly as you're adding it. Since the soil is kept cool, it's able to conserve more water and nutrients for your plants, and you won't have to drive up the water bill trying to keep your garden green all summer.

Plus, mulch is also great for suppressing pesky, sun-loving weeds. That means no more stiff backs or sore knees from constant weeding!

The Benefits of Mulch Vs. Stone

The Benefits of Mulch Vs. Stone

While mulch is available in a variety of materials and colors, some gardeners opt for decorative stones to shade the soil instead. While stones might be aesthetically appealing to you, they don't provide your plants with quite as many benefits as natural mulch. The majority of mulches available are made from natural, organic materials. Not only do these materials function as a barrier between the soil and sun, but they also break down to deliver tons of healthy nutrients and bacteria to the soil. Compared to stones, organic mulch is the less expensive option and offers way more benefits.

Types of Mulch

Types of Mulch

We might encourage using mulch over stone, but there are still plenty of different kinds of mulch to choose from to fit your design and color schemes. Some are organic, while others are synthetic, so make sure you decide on what benefits and features you're looking for first. Once you've decided, take a look at these possible options:

  • Bark Mulch: Shreds and nuggets of bark are common mulch materials here in Bismarck. They come in a variety of colors depending on the tree they're from. Bark mulch is a great, all-natural way to keep the sun's rays out and the moisture in. While it decomposes a little quicker than other mulches, your plants will be quite happy with the additional nutrients.
  • Wood Chips: Similar to bark mulch, wood chips are another popular material for mulching, and available in a wide variety of colors to match almost any garden aesthetic. If you'd prefer organic options, keep in mind that not all wood chips are all-natural as some are treated with dyes. Choose untreated wood chips, or those treated with natural, harmless dyes if you prefer to keep chemicals to a minimum.
  • Garden Clippings: If simple and free is appealing to you, you can always use raked leaves and lawn clippings to mulch your trees and shrubs. This way, you're just recycling the organic matter and nutrients right back into your own garden!

  • Straw: If you love a quaint, rural look, straw mulch is the perfect way to achieve a charming country vibe. This all-natural mulch works best when sprinkled around seeds or seedlings in the fall to give them a layer of protection for winter. Keep in mind that straw mulches may contain seeds for weeds or other plants, so it's best for an untamed, country look. If you're looking for a perfect, tidy garden, opt for bark mulch or wood chips instead.
  • Compost: Composted food, garden clippings, or animal manure might not look or smell the best, but it definitely provides the largest load of nutrients to your plants. Apply a thick layer, about 2-4 inches around your plants, and you can be sure they'll turn out lush and green.
  • Rubber Mulch: Your choice of natural vs. synthetic materials is completely up to you and the needs of your garden. If your plants seem to be thriving in the soil as it is, but you just can't seem to keep enough moisture in the ground, you might opt for synthetic materials. Rubber mulch doesn't add any nutrients to the soil, but it's great at retaining moisture, blocking weeds, and creating a warm, cozy environment for your plants.
  • Landscape Plastic: Plastic film is excellent for warming the soil and smothering weeds, but isn't meant to be a long-term mulch solution. It doesn't add any nutrients to the soil, and since it's impermeable to water, you'll have to make sure there's an irrigation system installed underneath.
  • Landscape Fabric: Landscape fabrics are applied similarly to landscape plastic, but because it's made of a breathable fabric, water and air can pass through. This makes it a better choice for long-term use to suppress weeds. Keep in mind, you'll still have to pair it with an organic mulch if you want your plants to benefit from additional organic matter!


Mulching is one of the best-kept secrets of gardening. Not only does this protective barrier keep the hot North Dakota summer sun out, but it also retains heat and insulates plants during our harsh winter season. If all the benefits of mulch weren't enough, then the tidy, manicured look it provides should convince you to give it a try. Mulch allows us to enjoy a healthy and well-maintained garden all year long.

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