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Organic Gardening:

Mulching - Comparison of costs and results for organic and inorganic mulches


Organic gardeners tend to go on about mulch. But if you're just starting out, these charts will help you to choose between the different types available.

Just to clarify, an organic mulch is one made of natural materials, such as grass, and an inorganic mulch is one made out of, for example, plastic, newspaper, or woven fabric. Both are used by organic gardeners, and there is nothing wrong with using an inorganic mulch in an organic garden. It's one of those words with several meanings, and there is no real conflict, it just sounds that way.

Comparative effect of inorganic mulches

Effect of covering an area of soil with different materials for a period of 2 weeks prior to sowing. The effect is greater towards the middle of the area.

Comparative cost of
organic mulches

Autumn leaves Free
Bagged composted bark 60p/bucket
Bagged chipped wood* 60p/bucket
Well rotted manure Cheap/free
Composted municipal sludge 83p/bucket
Bagged cocoa chips/shell** £1/bucket
*robs nitrogen, sprinkle beneath with blood, fish & bone
**slug repellent
Type of material single layer double layer
Landscape fabric +1 degrees C +1 degrees C
Carpet +1 degrees C +1 degrees C
Clear polythene +2 degrees C +2 degrees C
Fleece +2 degrees C +2 degrees C
Black polythene +1 degrees C +1 degrees C

When to use mulch

Purpose Plants When Material
To conserve moisture and suppress annual weeds Roses, shrubs, soft fruit, asparagus, globe artichokes April/May before the ground dries out Peat, leafmould, compost, lawn mowings
Suppression of perennial weeds All types Anytime Newspaper, plastic
Frost protection Asparagus, globe artichoke, many shrubs, some flowers (dahlias) Autumn Straw, rough leafmould, bracken, green manure crop
Protecting muddy paths, especially in raised bed growing All types Anytime Straw, sawdust, bark chippings

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Article ©2004 Frann Leach. All rights reserved.

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