The Q&A Archives: Mulch Varieties

Question: I have a few questions but they all relate to mulching....Please differentiate the variety of mulches that I see out in the market: Cedar, Pine, and Hemlock; is one better than the other? Also, I've read in various publications that it would be helpful to mulch tomato plants w/straw or hay. Can I use any of the aforementioned 3 mulches? If not, where can I purchase straw or hay? What about using newspaper??

Please help....I will probably be purchasing my mulch by week's end!

Answer: Cedar and Hemlock break down VERY slowly, which makes them good around trees and shrubs, etc. Pine breaks down a bit more readily, making it better for perennials. Hay and straw, on the other hand, break down very rapidly adding organic matter to the soil almost within the year they are applied. The wood chip form of mulch would be a pain to remove when you want to re-plant your tomatoes next year. That is why hay/straw is better for your tomatoes. Also, the cedar and hemlock is the most expensive...going down to the cheaper hay and straw. Newspaper is fine, but you need to be sure it is well anchored, or it will fly off, making a mess of everything. If you can find "salt-marsh" hay, it's a better choice because it does not contain weed seeds (which common field grown hay will be full of). Generally, you can find ANY of these at a local garden center. Or they can tell you where it is available.

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