Ask a Question forum: Mulch for garden

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Parker, Colorado
Marilito01
Jul 5, 2017 12:34 PM CST
What is the best mulch for my vegetable garden? I want to cut down on weeds and hold moisture. I have always used grass clippings but was told by the nursery that is not a good mulch for the garden. Any suggestions?
Name: Robyn
Minnesota (Zone 4a)
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robynanne
Jul 5, 2017 12:38 PM CST
Most places will suggest straw or hay. Straw is a collection of the stems and such and doesn't come with seed heads. Hay is what they feed to animals and it does have seed heads. The pro to using hay over straw is that it is FAR more nutritious for your garden when it composts in. The con to using it is.. well.. seed heads and weeds. I haven't really been all that bothered by pulling any hay that sprouts though.

Dried grass is fine really - it will just be FULL of seeds, which is annoying.
Name: Bea Kimball
Little Rock, Arkansas; (Zone 7b)
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Buzzbea424
Jul 5, 2017 6:40 PM CST
Notice that Robyn mentioned dried grass. The reason they may have told you to stay away from grass clippings is that fresh clippings can make a nasty mess. My husband used to dump fresh clippings on my garden. If I didn't get out to spread them, they would begin to rot and smell.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Jul 5, 2017 9:00 PM CST
I have used, this year I used some of the 12 bales of hay and straw that have been in the garage for a few years, for mulch.

Now I do not know how big your garden is, but for my corn and potatoes (this can be done for any thing planted in rows) I take a bale and slice off, I do use a knife but any straight edge will work or you can just use your fingers, a square from one to two inches thick and lay them in the rows and between plants for potatoes.
I take slivers of the squares and put them between corn plants but then I , nowadays, rarely have less than six inches between corn plants.
I have used them for tomatoes and chiles in a similar manner.

This greatly controls weeds and keeps the soil moist. This year I plopped an extra thick, 3 inches, square on top of some young thistles and have not seen them since.
I prefer hay to straw but that is partly because getting clean straw is a crap shoot.
Do not be afraid of old bales falling apart or that have mold. They are cheaper than fresh bales and work just as well.
You may have to retie twine on bales with broken twine or transporting them will be an adventure, at best.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jul 5, 2017 9:07 PM CST
The only thing I use for mulch (and I use a lot of mulch) on my garden is grass clippings. I realize that in the south this might not be a good idea, I've been told it will almost always be full of seeds. Our northern grasses don't seem to have that issue, although of course there are certainly dandelions that show up in it (and sunflowers, from mowing near the bird feeders). The only caveat is that you need to rake it out so it will dry, then keep adding layers as you go; don't try to achieve a thick layer all at one time, in other words.
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Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Jul 6, 2017 12:27 AM CST
Marilito01 said:What is the best mulch for my vegetable garden? I want to cut down on weeds and hold moisture. I have always used grass clippings but was told by the nursery that is not a good mulch for the garden. Any suggestions?


You can use utterly dried grass-clippings, but they are better left on the lawn. Nothing fertilizes grass better than mown grass.

I prefer reflective plastic sheet for some plants like tomatoes (to prevent splash-up, newspaper for between specific flowers to suppress weeds, and sifted compost around small crops.

Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jul 6, 2017 8:27 AM CST
Yardenman said:

You can use utterly dried grass-clippings, but they are better left on the lawn. Nothing fertilizes grass better than mown grass.

I prefer reflective plastic sheet for some plants like tomatoes (to prevent splash-up, newspaper for between specific flowers to suppress weeds, and sifted compost around small crops.



The grass clippings don't have to be completely dry when put on the garden -- they'll dry out on their own if spread out in a fairly thin layer. In my mind the clippings are only "better left on the lawn" if you care more about the lawn than the garden... we live in the middle of the woods and have a "country lawn," perfection is not expected.

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Name: Anne Harai
Snohomish, WA (Zone 8a)
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NWgirl
Jul 7, 2017 8:58 AM CST
Lots of cedar up here in the northwest so I use ground up bark. It lasts long and makes a nice, compact layer. I believe it's also is fairly acidic which seems to help prevent too many weeds.
Name: J.R. Baca
Pueblo West Co. ( High Dessert (Zone 6a)
josebaca
Jul 14, 2017 4:02 PM CST
Hello and Welcome! Marilito01;
I've been in Parker on many occasions, and love the rural setting. You live among a lot of pines and deciduous trees. Get a good chipper/shredder and in the fall rake up as much as you can get around your house and surrounding areas, set aside a big enough spot to accommodate the shreds near your garden and pile it up!
You'll be abating any fire hazards near your home and collecting mulching material, but trust me, YOU WON'T HAVE ENOUGH! and you probably never will. In the fall I make it my mission to pick up as many bags of leaves as I can and shred them as I go ( it's messy, dusty work ) and end up with my whole shred area full ( it's about 30 feet squared ) but by spring it has composted some and , if I'm lucky, half the size. What I don't use as a carbon source for my compost which I use MY grass clippings for, will be used as mulch for my garden beds.
It's locally sourced great for your plants AND soil and best of all FREE!

Hope this helps and good gardening.
J.R.
Name: Yardenman
Maryland (Zone 7a)
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Yardenman
Jul 14, 2017 4:24 PM CST
Weedwhacker said:

The grass clippings don't have to be completely dry when put on the garden -- they'll dry out on their own if spread out in a fairly thin layer. In my mind the clippings are only "better left on the lawn" if you care more about the lawn than the garden... we live in the middle of the woods and have a "country lawn," perfection is not expected.



Everything needs to be replenished. If you take it from the lawn, then the lawn needs fertilizer. But the absolute best fertilizer for the lawn is grass. Grass is made of what grass needs.

I prefer to go right to the place we steal from the soil. Fertilize the veggie gardens and nothing else needs to be moved.

I can get free mulch from the county landfill. The new stuff cooks at about 180F in large piles. After that, it cools down and they repile it for more decomposing,

I get it it after a year by a trailerload (5x8) and pile it up for another. By then it is OK to compost with kitchen scraps and dried weeds and weed-whacked vines and shredded paper and I have plenty of that.

I may decide to get some hay this year to add. I used to be able to get green scraps from the local grocery store, but evidendly someone is buying it now. I'm always searching for free bulk.

I can (and sometimes do) buy compost from a local nursery at $38 for a bucketload (about a cubic yard).

My next purpose for the free mulch is to spread it around the backyard as free nutrients for the trees' long-term health. Free is free. They don't ask what I'm doing with it.


Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Seed Starter Vegetable Grower
Greenhouse Region: United States of America Region: Michigan Enjoys or suffers cold winters Butterflies Birds
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Weedwhacker
Jul 14, 2017 9:09 PM CST
Our local landfill used to have a program where anyone from the county could get free compost; then they decided to keep it all to use on the town plantings (around trees, flower beds, etc) -- so that avenue is out. We don't fertilize the lawn very often, but occasionally we do take the bagger off the mower and leave the clippings on the lawn. Our actual "yard" is pretty big (an acre? maybe) and we also mow out along the edge of the road and a couple of other spots that are sort of openings in the edge of the woods. And then there's the "back yard," which mainly consists of the dog pen area. I don't think I could bring myself to buy hay for mulch when I have all these nice grass clippings available Rolling my eyes.
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