Mulch is the top layer of organic material that protects your garden beds. Adding a 3 to 5-inch layer of mulch in the spring will help slow evaporation from the soil, lessen drought stress on your plants and protect young, shallow roots from the baking heat come summer.
Over time, depending on the mulch you use—compost, rotted leaves, wood pieces or otherwise, the organic material decays into the ground and enriches the soil in differing ways.
Oh, and mulch keeps weeds from growing. A heavy application smothers the light so certain weed seeds can't germinate—a heckuva reward for one spring project. Here we've cracked open bags of the most popular mulches at McLendon Hardware for an up-close look.
Scotts Color Enhanced Mulch, Black
The smell from the colorant is remarkable, in that some garden guests may remark upon it. The scent does diminish somewhat over time, but a faint smell remains when dry.
Waupaca Bark Mulch, Extra Fine
Break out your garden gloves for this one too! The fine grind is great for breaking down quickly and building soil, but mind the slivers when laying it out.
G&B Harvest Supreme Soil Amendment
Extremely diverse ingredients list, no? It also has the most wood pieces of all sampled composts—a plus for longevity.
Organic Cascade Compost
Compost does return to dirt a lot faster than wood chips, but plants won’t complain. This mix came from yard scraps from Pierce and Thurston counties so it’s something close to what nature intended for your garden.
Kellogg Mushroom Compost
Mushroom compost doesn't contain the fungi; it is the material once used to grow mushrooms! The result is a fine-textured, alkaline soil amendment. Don’t use around acid-loving blueberries.
Black Gold Garden Compost
This brand is well-renowned for a reason: It’s high quality, nutrient rich and helps rebuild the soil both short- and long-term.