4 Free Mulches That Can Revolutionize Your Garden

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Another downside to pine straw: It is a source of acid. Your soil will increase in acidity, which is OK for some plants. Gardeners must consider the plants they are growing and if those plants like acid. Veggies such as sweet potatoes, radishes and peppers are good candidates.

2. Grass clippings. We all love free, and grass clippings fall into that category. If you cut your grass, you have clippings. The abundance is a positive reason to use grass clippings. They also are a fantastic source of nitrogen. All plants need nitrogen to grow, but some plants, such as lettuce and spinach, benefit from extra sources.

There are two negatives to using grass clippings. They decompose quickly, so you will have to continue to add layers throughout the growing season. Also, some gardeners despise the smell of decomposing grass. You’ll notice it heavily after rain.

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3. Shredded leaves. Fallen leaves contain minerals that the tree absorbed from the soil to aid its growth. As they decompose, leaves feed the earthworms, adding nutrients and microbes back into the soil. Gardens with sandy soil benefit from shredded leaves because they help to lighten the soil and retain moisture. Carbon, essential for balancing nitrogen, leeches into the soil as the leaves decompose.

The biggest negative is the look. Chances are you won’t win an award for the “Most Beautiful Garden of the Year.” It is worth the downside. Leaves must be shredded before used as mulch. Otherwise, water may not reach the soil. Also, never use leaves from walnut, eucalyptus or camphor laurel trees, as they have chemicals that stop plant growth.

4. Old hay. If you have access to old hay, your garden will thank you. While you could use fresh hay, the spoiled bales are cheaper and will add more nutrients to the soil. Over time, hay helps to act as a buffer and neutralize your soil. This could be a problem for some plants, but it is great for soil that is a bit too acidic.

The problem with using hay is that it is made from grass. It will have grass seeds that can cause weeds to grow in your garden. Since you probably want to avoid weeds, the best solution is to pile the old hay about a foot thick. At this depth, it is nearly impossible for weeds to grow through.

What organic mulch would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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