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Use Mulch in Your Garden

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Mother Nature abhors bare ground -- that's why she provides lots of leaves and other debris to protect the soil and nourish plants. Follow her lead by adding your own mulch to a garden or landscape.

Mulch is a great ally in the garden. It stops weeds from germinating, helps soil retain moisture, and prevents erosion. Mulch also unifies the look of your landscape. There are two types of mulch: organic and inorganic.

Organic mulch is made from material that was once alive, such as pine bark, cedar chips, and pine needles -- some is even dyed, so you can choose the hue and texture that best suits your garden. Organic mulch keeps the soil from baking and crusting over and adds nutrients as it slowly breaks down.

Some organic mulch, such as cedar or cocoa bean husks, has a nice scent. A word of warning: cocoa bean husks can be hazardous to dogs, so use something else if you have pets.

Inorganic mulch, such as pea gravel or stone, is convenient because it doesn't break down and therefore doesn't need to be replenished. It encourages rapid drainage away from plant stems and is great for plantings of succulents, cacti, and other plants that like dry conditions. Inorganic mulch, however, can retain too much heat for the good of some tender plants.

When working with gravel or stone, consider laying down landscape fabric first. This will keep stones from migrating into the soil and help prevent weeds from growing, too.

Before you mulch your garden, weed the area. Then spread mulch around plants. Be generous. Add about 2 to 3 inches. If you have really tough weeds, make a thicker layer -- up to 4 inches.

Consider applying a preemergent beforehand. This is an herbicide that prevents weeds from germinating. Some mulches have a preemergent already built in.

When mulching, leave several inches of ground around the base of plants bare. Mulch when spring plants are just beginning to sprout -- and before the weeds get a roothold. Then mulch again in the fall, before frost, to protect tender perennials.