How to Choose the Right Mulch for Your Garden

Okay, let’s be honest – mulch isn’t the sexiest gardening topic. But choosing the right mulch can be the difference between a thriving, low-maintenance garden and a weedy, thirsty disaster zone. 

It’s the reason you’re here after all, right? You want to make sure something seemingly minor will do wonders for your garden space. Let’s dive in and make this garden mulching business a little more interesting!

How To Choose The Best Mulch For Your Needs

Choosing the right mulch isn’t rocket science, but it requires a bit of planning. To find your perfect mulch match, consider these key questions:

What do you want to achieve? Battling a wild jungle of weeds? Trying to conserve water during those scorching Aussie summers? Perhaps you want to add a bit of polish to your garden beds? Your primary goal will help narrow down your choices.

What plants are you planning to grow? Different plans thrive with different mulches. Acid-loving flora like blueberries and azaleas crave acidic mulches, while your veggie patch might prefer something nutrient-rich, like compost or straw.

What’s the weather like around your area? Light-coloured mulches can help reflect the sun and keep things cooler under intense heat. Meanwhile, areas with heavy downpours benefit from a chunky mulch that won’t wash away easily.

Pros And Cons Of Popular Mulch Types

red dyed mulch

Organic Mulch

Organic mulch is derived from natural materials like bark, shredded leaves, wood chips, straw, or compost. Here are the most popular types:


Bark Mulch: Made from shredded or chipped tree bark, available in various textures and colours. 

  • Pros:
    • Excellent weed suppression due to its chunky nature.
    • Long-lasting, breaking down slowly over time.
    • Attractive appearance, adds a polished look to garden beds.
    • Helps regulate soil temperature, keeping roots cooler in summer and warmer in winter. 
  • Cons:
    • Can be expensive, especially for large areas
    • May float away in heavy downpours if applied too thinly.
    • Can have hydrophobic qualities, as some bark has a wax-like substance, “suberin”, making them a bit slower to decompose.
    • Some types of bark mulch need nitrogen to fuel the decomposition process. During the early stages, they can temporarily “borrow” nitrogen from the surrounding soil, making it less available for your plants. This can lead to yellowing leaves and stunted growth. 

Wood Chips: Chipped pieces of tree branches and trunks, often with a coarser texture than bark mulch.

  • Pros:
    • Very affordable and often available for free from local arborists.
    • Offers decent weed suppression and moisture retention.
    • Breaks down over time, contributing to soil health. 
  • Cons:
    • May attract termites in some regions, especially in the eastern and northern parts, which have a higher risk of termites than in the cooler southern areas.
    • Decomposes faster than bark mulch, requiring more frequent replenishment.
    • Can have a less polished look than bark mulch. 

Dyed Mulch: Dyed mulches are typically made from recycled wood products that have been coloured with dyes. They come in a variety of bold colours, most commonly black, red, or brown.

  • Pros:
    • The primary draw of dyed mulch is its bold and uniform colour, which adds a decorative element to landscaping.
    • Dyes help the mulch retain its colour for longer compared to natural, undyed mulches, which tend to fade over time.
  • Cons:
    • Concerns exist about the types of dyes used and the potential for them to leach into the soil, potentially harming plants or beneficial soil organisms. But as of writing, there is no solid evidence that this is the case. 

Shredded Leaves: Leaves run through a shredder or lawn mower for easier decomposition. This finer mulch breaks down quickly, improves soil health, reduces evaporation, and provides a neat appearance to garden beds.

  • Cons:
    • Can form a matted layer if applied too thickly, preventing airflow and water penetration.
    • May blow away in exposed areas.
    • Not the best choice for formal garden beds due to their less formal appearance. 

Straw: The dried stalks of cereal grains like wheat, oats, or barley.

  • Pros:
    • Inexpensive and readily available, especially in rural areas.
    • Suppresses weeds surprisingly well.
    • Breaks down quickly, adding nutrients to the soil.
    • Light and airy, making it easy to apply around delicate plants. 
  • Cons:
    • Can contain weed seeds, so sourcing from a reliable supplier is crucial.
    • May attract rodents if applied too thickly.
    • Less visually appealing than some other mulches. 

Compost: Decomposed organic matter like food scraps, leaves, and yard waste. Rich in nutrients and beneficial microbes that break down organic matter, improve soil health and even suppress diseases.

  • Pros:
    • Can be made at home for free, reducing waste.
    • Superb for enriching the soil and boosting plant health.
    • Good moisture retention properties. 
  • Cons:
    • Less effective for weed suppression than chunkier mulches.
    • Requires regular replenishment as it breaks down quickly.
    • Can attract pests if it contains unfinished food scraps.

Inorganic Mulch

Unlike organic mulches, inorganic mulches don’t decompose, offering a different set of benefits and considerations. Here are some popular choices:


Gravel / Stones: Available in a vast array of sizes, colours, and textures, ranging from tiny pea gravel to larger river stones.

  • Cons:
    • Expensive, particularly for larger areas.
    • Can get hot in full sun, potentially stressing nearby plants.
    • No soil-improvement benefits.
    • Difficult to remove if you change your mind. 

Rubber Mulch: Made from recycled tyres and often shredded into various sizes and colours:

  • Pros:
    • Very long-lasting and won’t decompose.
    • Offers decent weed suppression.
    • Softer surface than gravel, making it a potential option for play areas. 
    • Cons:
      • Expensive.
    • Can get hot in the sun.
    • Not a natural look, which may not suit all garden styles. 

Landscape Fabric: While often used alongside mulch, landscape fabric itself isn’t one. Rather, it serves as a barrier beneath other mulching materials.

  • Pros:
    • Effective weed control.
    • Can be hidden under a layer of organic mulch for added aesthetics. 
  • Cons:
    • Restricts the natural exchange of organic matter between the soil and mulch layer.
    • Degrades over time, with weeds eventually taking root on top.
    • Not environmentally friendly due to its synthetic nature.


Best Uses For Each Type Of Mulch

Organic Mulch

Bark Mulch: Ideal for established trees, shrubs, formal garden beds, and areas where long-lasting weed control and a tidy appearance are desired.

Wood Chips: Great for pathways, informal garden areas, and large spaces where a budget-friendly mulch is needed.

Dyed Mulch: Perfect for formal garden beds and decorative landscaping where a bold, long-lasting colour is desired. Also commonly used around foundations, walkways, or non-edible ornamental plants.

Shredded Leaves: Perfect for mulching around acid-loving plants, enriching vegetable gardens, or adding a protective layer of winter mulch.

Straw: Excellent for vegetable gardens (weed suppression and soil enrichment), winter insulation for plants, and keeping berries clean.

Compost: Superb for enriching soil and boosting plant health when combined with a chunkier mulch for weed control. Not ideal as a standalone mulch.

Inorganic Mulch

Gravel / Stones: Xeriscaping, rock gardens, pathways, and around succulents or other heat-tolerant plants. Adds a decorative element.

Rubber Mulch: Often used in playgrounds or landscaping projects where a long-lasting and low-maintenance mulch is desired. Consider carefully due to potential environmental concerns.


Key Takeaway

Maybe mulch still won’t win any “most exciting” awards, but it’s your garden’s secret weapon. The right mulch saves you time, weeds vanish, and your plants look fabulous – what’s not to love?  Think of choosing mulch as matchmaking for your garden – pairing the right stuff with the right plants sets you up for success.

If all this mulch matchmaking has you excited, Wholesale Sleeper Co. is your one-stop shop for transforming your garden.

With years of experience and a huge selection of mulches, soils, and everything in between, we’ve got what you need to make your outdoor space or garden shine. Request a free, no-obligation quote from us today and get professional advice for your next landscaping project.

By | May 14th, 2024|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments