Weed out the Weeds
One primary adversary of any gardener is weeds. These uninvited guests and freeloaders literally suck the life out of your plants and vegetables. Moreover, they take up so much of our time when we would routinely rid our gardens of them. In fact, a statistic in 1991 states that the average annual monetary loss due to weeds in the US was around $4.1 billion dollars!
Thankfully, there is a simple solution, especially for home garden vegetables: mulch. So, to protect your precious crops without resorting to expensive herbicides, let’s look at seven of the best mulch for garden vegetables.
A Quick Guide to Mulching
Typically, mulching is the process of covering or blanketing the soil around your plants with organic or inorganic materials. Not only will mulching enhance the beauty of your garden, but it also has a myriad of benefits for your garden vegetables.
There are generally two main types of mulch: Organic and inorganic mulch.
Organic mulch includes all plant-based, animal waste products, and other natural and biological matter. Straw, bark, grass clippings, leaves, coconut husks, and wood chips are examples of organic mulch.
On the other hand, organic mulch includes synthetic or non-biodegradable material such as plastic, gravel, perlite, geotextile weed barriers, just to name a few. Naturally, theinorganic material is not as beneficial to gardens in comparison to organic mulch. However, inorganic mulch may provide specific benefits such as moisture retention and full weed control, as well as soil erosion reduction.
Why use mulch?
Making use of mulch for your gardens, especially with plants that need constant nourishment and care (such as flowerbeds or vegetable gardens), has many potential benefits. Here’s a list of just some of the beneficial aspects to mulching:
The Best Mulches for Garden Vegetables
Personally, the 8.8-pound box of coconut husk and coconut fiber is easily the best mulch for garden vegetables. This organic mulch doesn’t just make your garden look great and manicured; it also gives the many benefits that excellent mulches bring such as weed suppression as well as pest control, improved water retention and much more! In fact, I’ve been able to save up on my water bills because of this mulch!
Note though that I soaked this mulch for several hours. However, it was well worth the wait as soaking made it very easy for me to shape and mold the coconut husks around my vegetable garden. Also, this lovely ground cover will last you up to two years! In other words, you’ll save time, effort, and money!
- Excellent water absorption and retention
- Prevents weed growth as well as soil erosion
- Decreases overall water usage
- Discourages pests
- Once soaked, the mulch is very moldable and easy to place around vegetables
- Soaking and expansion may take longer than you’d expect
- May be pricey for some
Another personal favorite is Charlie’s Compost. I would even use this mulch in addition to the Mega Mulch from Planter’s Pride. If you’re going down the entirely organic route, then this is your best option.
I find that my garden vegetables are generally healthier and plumper! This improved is most likely due to the organic material in this compost which is full of beneficial microbes! Hence, you don’t just get ground cover and weed control, but also healthier and more fertile soil.
Finally, at ten lbs., Charlie’s compost will cover around two cubic feet of soil!
- Makes soil healthier as well as more fertile
- Fully organic ingredients
- Great as a standalone mulch as well as a supplementary one.
- Aerates soil
- Mulching for weed control may need a thicker application of compost (at least 2-inches), which means using this product alone may become pricey for the amount you get.
Straw is one of the most efficient mulches, especially for vegetable gardening and for that, the wheat straw from Thunder Acres is a top choice. The straw provides incomparable soil aeration which will be further supplemented by helpful cultivating worms that feed on them. Also, unlike rice straw, wheat straw does not deteriorate quickly.
Moreover, wheat straw actually controls soil temperature. In other words, your vegetables will have coldsoil during summer and warm soil during the colder months. Finally, if you’re among the few that do not like the look of straw as ground cover, thewheat straw will be perfect as an undercoat beneath the mulch you prefer.
- Top-notch soil aeration as well as moisture retention
- Straw deposits trace minerals into the soil upon decomposition
- Beautifies garden soil bed
- Great as un undercoat beneath pricier mulch
- Excellent soil temperature moderation
- Takes time to soak bales of wheat straw
- The possibility of rotting when you don’t use the soaked bales of straw quickly.
Although not as effective as our first option, the Grow!t Coco Chips were among the fastest to rehydrate. In other words, you’ll have a good mulching option in as little as 10 minutes of soaking! Hence, if you’re in need of some quick ground cover with the benefits of organic coconut chips and fiber, then you won’t go wrong with the Grow!t Coco Coir Chips.
Lastly, if you plan to shield your vegetables from weeds, then consider applying the Grow!t in a2-inch to 4-inch layer. This method ensures minimal sunlight exposure in the soil which will retard any weed growth.
- Easy to apply as well as quick rehydration
- Improved air circulation in soil as well as resistance to pests and fungi
- Decorative and great to look at
- Easy storage and transport
- Smaller chips and fiber in comparison to the Mega Mulch.
- Bullet Point 2
In addition to my Mega Mulch from Planter’s Pride and Charlie’s Compost, you’ll also find the Cocoa Bean Shell Mulch from Hull Farm.
Mainly, what sets cocoa bean husks apart from coconut fiber and straw is the pleasant aroma that they emanate into the air and throughout your garden. So, if you’re a fan of that drool-inducing smell of chocolate, a cocoa bean shell mulch will be a joy to have on your vegetable bed. The smell becomes especially intense after it gets a good soak from either rain or sunlight! Also, this lovely odor will last you several weeks!
Of course, this chocolate smell is in addition to the reduction of water loss, increased protein and nitrogen when the husks decompose, the earthworm attraction, as well as ideal weed suppression! Additionally, the cocoa bean shell husks proved an approximate fertilizer value of 2.5-1-3!
- Fantastic aroma
- Efficient at plant insulation
- Enriches the soil
- Attracts earthworms, which are natural fertilizers and cultivators
- Excellent weed control since the cocoa husks bond together when you soak them
- Risk of overfeeding if the husks are not spread evenly
- Soaked husks will stick to shoes or pet feet.
Don’t let the low rating fool you. Naturally, gravel or rock as mulching will not provide the same benefits as organic mulch. However, these Margo Decorative Rock from Rainforest is a great accent to your garden. Also, placing them around a vegetable bed will prevent soil erosion as well as retain moisture!
If evenly spread onto the ground, the rocks will prevent sunlight from reaching the soil, which will subsequently discourage any weed growth
- Decorative effect on garden
- Prevents soil erosion
- Improves moisture retention
- Insulates the soil
- Suppresses weed growth
- Permanent garden accessory
- No nutritional benefits
- May decrease air circulation
- Risk of damaging fragile plant stems and roots
The black plastic Weed Block from Easy-Plant will be your go-to option if you’re number one problem are troublesome weeds especially when organic mulches have not been effective.
However, plastic mulches are not without their many other benefits as well. These inorganic ground covers also reduce soil compaction due to the crusting effect of sunlight or rain; minimizes water evaporation, and better crop quality!
- The plastic keeps fruits off the soil
- Markedly efficient weed suppression
- Keeps soil cool
- Reduction of plant stress as it aids in uniform moisture distribution
- Requires drip irrigation system
- Environmental impact of plastic
- Introduction to Weeds: What are weeds and why do we care?
Dwight D. Ligenfelter. Department of Agronomy, Penn State University. Extension.psu.edu
- Controlling Weeds by Cultivating and Mulching
Bob Polomski, Debbie Shaughnessy. Sept 2006. Clemson Cooperative Extension. Clemson University. Clemson.edu
- Mulch - A Gardener's Best Friend
Lyn Gannon. University of California Sonoma County Master Gardeners. University of California. Ucanr.edu
- Gardening Tips – Mulch
University of California Sonoma County Master Gardeners. University of California. Ucanr.edu
- HOW TO CHOOSE MULCH FOR YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN
Charlie Nardozzi Vegetable Gardening for DUMMIES. Dummies.com
- Organic Mulch: A Gardener’s Good Friend