The Ultimate Guide to Mulch Types and Benefits for Your Charlotte Garden

The wait is over, spring has officially sprung! Which means that you can finally move forward with your gardening project full steam ahead. While there are certainly places in the United States that allow for year-round planting and harvesting, April and May mark a pivotal time for gardeners across the country, as now is decidedly the time to get planting if you wish to reap the benefits of a summer and/or fall harvest.

During this crucial time, most gardeners are asking themselves a lot of questions, including “what do I want to plant?” and “when do I need to start planting x, y, and z?”. Deciding on the aforementioned will come down to a lot of specifics based on where you live, which is often the case with gardening. However, there are a few things that all gardeners should consider, for instance, the use of mulch. Whether you’re a certified green thumb, gardening novice, wish to plant a small vegetable garden, or a massive display of flowers, mulch should always be included in the conversation.

In this guide, we’ll start by answering the question “what is mulch?” before breaking down the different types of mulch and their respective benefits.

What is Mulch?

In order to best choose a specific type of mulch you have to first understand what mulch is. The answer to that question is actually quite simple as mulch is nothing more than a protective layer of material that is spread on top of soil. 

There are two main categories of mulch, inorganic and organic. Inorganic mulch is made from non-living materials like rocks, gravel, plastic, rubber, or metal. Whereas organic is comprised of materials that will decompose over time such as wood chips, bark, straw, leaves, grass clippings, compost, etc. 

Mulch Charlotte

The First Step to Choosing Mulch? Deciding Between Inorganic and Organic.

Deciding which mulch to use can be tough, because frankly, there are a lot of different types to consider. Fortunately, you can usually eliminate a few options by opting for either an inorganic or an organic material. 

Inorganic and organic mulches vary considerably when it comes to appearance, which for many gardeners is an important factor, but more importantly these two distinctions differ most significantly in how they effect soil health, increase water retention, aid weed control, and regulate temperature. 

Generally speaking, organic mulches are more beneficial for improving the overall quality of a soil, as they introduce necessary nutrients into the soil. Organic mulch also helps the soil retain moisture, effectively reducing the need for frequent watering. Organic mulch can also suppress weeds by blocking sunlight. Despite these benefits, organic mulch does require more replenishing than an inorganic counterpart and will also decompose over time. 

On the other hand, inorganic mulch does not improve soil quality or add nutrients to your soil. Nevertheless, it lasts longer and requires less replenishing over time, while simultaneously retaining water. Inorganic mulch can also significantly reduce weeds by blocking sunlight. Inorganic mulch helps to prevent soil erosion and compaction by reducing the impact of rain and wind on a soil’s surface. It can also help to prevent pests and disease from spreading throughout the soil as it does not harbor insects or fungi. Once you decide on inorganic versus organic, you can then start looking into the options available in each category.

So, You’ve Chosen Between Inorganic Versus Organic: What Next?

Before we list and discuss the major benefits of a few popular mulch types, keep in mind a few important factors as you weigh your options.  

  • Location: where you live matters and it’s advisable to choose a mulch that will be complimentary to the environment in which you live. For instance, in Charlotte NC where the summers are hot and humid, a sturdier variety like hardwood can help compact the soil, avoiding washout.
  •  Type of Plants:  Every plant is different and has its own unique needs. This is why it’s recommended to decide what you’re growing before you pick a specific type of mulch, as certain plants will respond better to certain mulch varieties.
  • Budget: Fortunately, you can find a suitable mulch type regardless of budget. However inorganic mulches tend to be more economical, making them a sound choice for those who are looking to save some cash.

Popular Organic Mulches and Their Benefits

Listed below are a few of the most popular organic mulches, and a brief mention of their most notable benefits.

-Wood Chips and/or Bark: Long lasting and attractive, woods are ideal for retaining moisture, suppressing weeds, and infusing soil with necessary nutrients.

– Straw or hay: Cheap and easily spreadable, straw and hay have great insulation properties. They also prevent erosion and weed growth, while depositing nutrients back into the soil.

– Grass clippings or leaves: Readily available (and oftentimes free) grass and leaves organically add nutrients to the soil as they decompose. Like most organic mulch types, they also help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

-Compost or manure: if you’re especially concerned with adding nutrients into your soil, you should definitely consider compost and manure because they are rich in organic matter. 

Popular Inorganic Mulches and Their Benefits

-Rock or Gravel: Rock and gravel are very popular decorative mulch choices because they look great while still providing good drainage and erosion control. Depending on the type of plants you’re growing, their penchant for heat retention can also be a plus. They’re also durable and low maintenance.

– Rubber: Made from recycled tires, rubber mulch can vary in color and size, making it highly versatile. It’s often a good choice for playgrounds and landscaping, due to its soft and cushioned nature, preventing weeds as a result. 

-Plastic or Fabric: These mulch types are usually laid over the soil, before being covered with another layer of inorganic (or organic) material. They make for good barriers that block sunlight, water, and air from reaching the soil. This makes them ideal for preventing weed growth and soil erosion.

Utilize Local Resources

As with most things in life, the more research you conduct ahead of time, the better your outcomes. While we’ve discussed the benefits of popular inorganic and organic mulches, you’ll want to make sure you are aware of any major drawbacks before committing to a certain type. While most of that information is readily available to you with a quick internet search, keep in mind that you can always utilize the staff at the local nursery and landscaping suppliers in your area. A reputable supplier will understand the local climate and can give you personalized advice to ensure you rear the best garden and/or landscape possible.

To learn more about our high-quality mulch we are offering as the leading supplier of mulch in  Charlotte NC and explore our wide range of fill dirt and top soil Charlotte, as well as delivery options in the greater Charlotte area, including Matthews and Monroe, among others, visit our website at or give us a call today at (704)882-1610.  Andolina Materials is here to assist you with all your Premium Mulching needs!

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