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Mulch buying guide

Mulch buying guide

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

151 guides

Mulch is the perfect solution for limiting weed growth and maintaining soil moisture and soil temperature. Designed to be spread around the base of flower beds, crops or bushes, mulch comes in many different forms including organic or mineral mulch, and weed control covers. From straw mulch to pine bark, read on for our top tips on mulching your garden!

Important features

  • Organic mulches
  • Mineral mulches
  • Fabric weed covers
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Fighting weeds can be a daily battle. The aim of mulching is to limit or prevent weed growth or, failing that, to stop them from growing back. Mulching also reduces the need for watering as it slows down moisture evaporation from the soil. And the benefits don't end there. Some mulch also helps to provide nutrients to plants as it decomposes while other types of mulch will effectively protect the roots from freezing. Whether used to cover large surfaces or just a few plants, there are mulching options for every situation. But before you get too carried away remember that you will still have to get the hoe out from time to time!

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Mulch and weed control fabric

Whether you're looking to mulch a slope, a pathway or when planting here and there, it's important to choose the most appropriate type of mulch for the situation. There are three main families of mulch:

  • weed control fabric;
  • organic mulch;
  • mineral mulch.

Weed control fabric prevents weeds from growing while letting water through. Organic mulch is made from plant debris and is less effective against weeds, but retains moisture and provides nutrients to the soil. Mineral mulch is made from gravel that reduces moisture evaporation and adds a decorative touch.

Weed control or landscaping fabric comes in a variety of materials and is perfect for covering a large area. It works especially well for sloping ground. If you have a particularly steep incline, weed control fabric can be used not only to prevent weed growth but also to limit soil erosion and shifting. There are two types of weed control fabric: organic or plastic.

Organic weed fabric

Organic weed covers are made of fabrics like coconut wool or flax and are designed to decompose after several years of use. This leaves enough time for the new vegetation to develop and cover the fabric entirely. It's important to keep this in mind because if your plants are slow to grow, you may need to lay new fabric before the plants have managed to cover the fabric.

Plastic weed covers

These weed covers are made to last and act as a barrier to hold the soil in place which helps to limit soil erosion. As the material is strong and can be stretched over the ground, it is effective at preventing your soil from shifting over slopes. Often green or black in colour, plastic sheeting is not the most attractive option.

Woven weed covers are very effective at preventing weeds from growing. You can also cover it with mineral mulch to add an extra decorative touch.
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Plant protection

Organic mulch can be made from a wide variety of materials. The main advantage of this type of mulch is that it is entirely biodegradable and will therefore enrich your soil with nutrients as it breaks down.

The downside of organic mulch is that you must top it up regularly to ensure that it is performing properly. The two main roles of organic mulch are to limit weed growth and optimise soil moisture retention. The most commonly used types of organic mulch are:

  • pine bark - be careful as this increases soil acidity;
  • compost and manure - will add lots of nutrients to the soil;
  • straw - inexpensive and very effective;
  • grass clippings - be sure not to use fresh clippings at the risk of burning your plants;
  • flax straw - lasts longer than standard straw.

Mineral mulch provides a good middle ground between the options described above. Like plastic weed covers, mineral mulch has an excellent lifespan and does not to be topped up regularly. It also does a fairly good job of maintaining soil moisture. One of the main advantages of mineral mulch is that it comes in many colours, sizes and shapes and is therefore ideal for adding a decorative touch to the garden. The most common mineral mulches are made of:

  • pebbles - available in a multitude of different shapes, sizes and colours; solid performance;
  • pozzolana - extracted from volcanic rock, this mineral is rust-coloured, rot-proof and has an excellent lifespan;
  • slate - like pozzolana, slate is very long-lasting but is blue or black in colour.

  1. The use of mulch prevents crops from re-seeding themselves naturally. You may have to remove the mulch from the base of more sensitive plants after heavy rainfall or it will start to rot.
  2. Be sure to store your mulch in a dry shed. Ensure bags are tightly sealed and do not place them directly on the floor; elevate them on a pallet wherever possible.
  3. Do not hesitate to compost organic waste. Your compost can then be mixed with soil for additional nutrients or be used as mulch.
  4. Chemical fertilisers can be polluting to soil and harmful to health. If you have to use fertiliser, choose a natural option.

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Garden sheds

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Guide written by:

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff, 151 guides

Jeremy, Construction site supervisor, Cardiff

Electrician by trade, I first worked in industrial estates where I installed, wired and fixed a large number of electrical installations. After this, I managed a team of electricians for this type of work. 10 years or so ago, I turned to building and construction. From the modest family home, to gyms and theatres, I have been able to coordinate, audit and organise all sorts of construction sites. For 4 years now, I am restoring and building an extension to a bungalow in the heart of the Welsh countryside. My experience in manual work and my knowledge means I am proud to be of service. Terraces, interior design, roofing, plumbing, electrics, anything goes! My wife, daughter and I, built almost everything we have from scratch! So to answer all of your questions and advise you on choosing your tools? Easy!

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