15 Mulch Alternatives For Your Garden

There are many possible mulch alternatives that you can use to add diversity, color, and texture to your garden. Some include rocks, river rocks, shredded papers, soil cloth, and even ground-up bark. The goal is to give you a wide selection of mulch alternatives so you can spend less time looking for the right one and more time enjoying your garden. In this article, we will discuss Mulch Alternatives for your garden.

1. Stones

Mulch is a great way to keep your garden neat and tidy, but sometimes you may want to use something that doesn’t break down in the soil. In this case, stones can be a great option as mulch alternatives. Stones like river rocks can be used as mulch around different plants, including vegetable gardens. They help with weed control and moisture retention by preventing evaporation.

This type of mulch can also protect from the sun for young seedlings in your garden. You’ll want to ensure that you’re using the correct size stones for whatever you’re planting. For example, small stones or pebbles might work better than larger rocks if you’re planning on growing vegetables since their roots need room to grow without being crushed by heavy objects on top of them.

2. Pumice Stone

Pumice stone is a volcanic rock full of tiny air bubbles, making it incredibly lightweight. These air pockets make pumice stone a great way to remove dead skin from the feet, but they also make this porous rock an excellent alternative to mulch as well. Pumice stone is incredibly light, and it will not be compact, making it much easier to work with than heavier mulches.

It can be used in the same way as any other mulch: spread around your plants to deter weeds and retain moisture. One of the downsides of pumice stone is that it will break down into fine powdery sand over time, making it challenging to rake out and spread if you need to do so.

3. Pine Needles

If you’re looking for a mulch that’s long-lasting and effective but that you might already have on hand, pine needles are a great option. Pine needles can act as a protective layer to keep the soil temperature cooler, great in hot weather. They also break down slowly, so they’ll last longer than other mulches. Their acidity can help your plants absorb nutrients over time.

There are some drawbacks to pine needles as mulch: they may wash away in periods of heavy rain or wind, and they tend to collect water after a storm. However, you can use them in conjunction with a thicker layer of another kind of mulch and rocks or gravel for better drainage.

4. Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is one of the most common mulch alternatives available on the market today. It is made from recycled rubber tires, cut into small pieces, and dyed to resemble natural wood mulch. This type of mulch offers several advantages over its natural counterpart, including a longer lifespan and less-frequent replacement. But some people are concerned about safety issues associated with using rubber mulch in their gardens.

If you’re planning to use rubber mulch in your garden, it’s essential to be aware of its pros and cons before making any decisions about what kind of mulch you want to use. The good news is that there are many different types of rubber mulches out there, so you don’t have to settle for one specific kind just because someone else prefers it over another product.

5. Hay

Hay is most often used for animal bedding, but it can also be used for mulch. Hay comes in several forms, from loose and fluffy to compressed bales. It is harvested from various sources, including wheat, barley, and oats. One benefit of using hay as mulch is finding it at affordable prices.

You may even be able to find it for free if there are farmers in your area who produce hay. However, since hay is so absorbent, you may find that it begins to decompose quickly and grows moldy. Hay also contains seeds that could sprout in your garden beds and become weeds.

6. Shredded Newspaper

One of the most readily available mulch alternatives is shredded newspaper. If you and your neighbors receive a daily newspaper, you can easily collect enough for all your garden mulching needs. For example, if there are six houses on your block and each of them receives one newspaper daily, you can shred enough paper to cover six gardens.

However, some people do not like the idea of using newspapers in their gardens because they worry that the ink will leech toxins into the soil and contaminate their vegetables. Some also fear that the paper will annoy weeds by adding another carbon source to the ground and creating an environment in which they can thrive. While these are valid concerns, studies have shown that newspaper mulch has no adverse effects on plants or soil.

7. Pea Gravel

When it comes to mulch alternatives, pea gravel is a popular choice. Some people prefer this kind of mulch because it’s more decorative than other types of mulch and can add a nice touch to your garden. Many people also like how pea gravel feels when they walk on it, as opposed to other kinds of mulch. Pea gravel is much less likely to cause splinters or itchiness than different types of mulch.

It can also be used in the areas of your garden where you don’t want any plants to grow, such as on top of weeds or next to sidewalks, so that you don’t have to worry about trimming grass. Pea gravel has many advantages over other types of mulch, but there are also some disadvantages. For example, it can get washed away during heavy rains because it doesn’t absorb water as other types do. It can also make for a slippery surface when wet.

8. Leaf Mulch

Leaf mulch is a type of organic mulch often used in gardens and flowerbeds. It can be made from various leaves, including maple, oak, beech, and birch leaves. Some people will use any leaves available in their yard, while others prefer to use leaves that are particularly rich in nutrients. Leaf mulch is usually made by collecting fallen leaves in your yard each fall and allowing them to decompose a bit before you put them in your garden. The decomposition process helps the nutrients in the leaves leach out into the soil. Once they have broken down some, you can put them directly onto your garden or flowerbeds and allow them to finish breaking down right there.

In addition to helping your plants get extra nutrients, leaf mulch helps retain moisture, so you don’t have to water as often during dry spells. It also keeps weeds from growing and keeps the soil temperature moderate throughout the year.

9. Pumice Rock

Pumice is a volcanic rock full of holes, making it very light in weight. It is usually crushed into small pieces and spread on top of the soil around your plants as a mulch substitute. Pumice rock is highly porous, which means that it can absorb a lot of water, allowing for plenty of air circulation. As a mulch alternative, pumice rock helps keep weeds down and moisture in your soil, so you do not have to water as often.

Because it has nice air pockets between the rocks, the roots of your plants can breathe more quickly than they could if they were covered with other types of mulch like wood chips or shredded bark. Pumice rock is heavy enough that you can use it anywhere you would typically use gravel as a mulch alternative, including along walkways or in decorative planters. 

10. Groundcover Mulch

There are many types of mulch available for you to use in your garden, but did you know that groundcover mulch is one of the alternatives? Groundcover mulches work well to suppress weeds and give your garden a more natural look. This type of mulch can be used in large or small gardens. Groundcover mulch is made from recycled materials and has various textures and colors.

The material used to make this mulch varies depending on the manufacturer. You can choose from wood chips, leaves, straw, or even grass clippings. The ground cover is also called “mulch” because it helps keep moisture in the soil by trapping water in the material and keeping it from evaporating out into the air. Groundcover mulches are usually sold in bags or rolls placed directly over the soil before planting anything else.

11. Cardboard

Cardboard may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re looking for mulch alternatives for your garden, but it’s an excellent option. It suppresses weeds and helps to retain moisture, making it a perfect choice for any garden. It also decomposes readily, which is a big plus if you’re looking to use mulch that breaks down quickly and will have to be replaced often.

It should be noted that cardboard breaks down very quickly in the rain, so you can’t just spread it directly onto the ground. Instead, you need to make sure that you are layering the cardboard at least 4-6 inches deep so that it won’t wash away when it rains. You can also help prevent this by laying down a layer of shredded newspaper first before covering it with cardboard.

12. Grass Clippings

Mulching with grass clippings can be a great way to ensure that your garden soil is covered and protected from the elements. However, this is one of those mulching methods that require some preparation to work correctly. First, you need to make sure that you mow your lawn regularly.

Waiting too long between mowing sessions means that the grass clippings will be longer, thicker, and more likely to mat together into a mat which can prevent water and air from reaching the soil. A second consideration is the height of your grass when you cut it. If it’s too short, then the clippings will break up into small pieces, which could blow away or become compacted on top of your garden soil. The best times to mow are first thing in the morning or late afternoon.

13. Cocoa Bean Hulls

If you’re looking for a unique mulch alternative, why not try cocoa bean hulls? You might think they’d only work if you grew chocolate, but the hulls are a great garden mulching material. They’re inexpensive, their dark color helps warm the soil, and they assist with water retention because of their porous nature. Using cocoa bean hulls as mulch also helps to keep weeds down and can repel insects.

There are two caveats to using cocoa bean hulls: First of all, make sure you don’t use them in places where dogs or other pets might be tempted to eat them! They’re not poisonous, but they are high in caffeine and can cause vomiting or diarrhea. Secondly, cocoa bean hulls should never be used on acidic plants.

14. Straw

If you are looking for mulch alternatives for your garden and have thought about straw, that’s a great choice. Straw is the stalk that remains after the grain has been harvested. It is easy to find, cheap, and provides several benefits to plants and soil. The downside? It may contain weed seeds. If you see little green shoots in your straw mulch, they can be pulled out.

Straw can hold moisture in the soil and keep dirt from splashing onto plants during a rainstorm. It can also control the soil temperature more relaxed and more stable, which can help protect delicate roots during extreme temperature changes. In addition, it adds organic matter as it decomposes, which helps feed your plants.

15. Cold Compost

Cold compost is a type of composting that involves building up layers of organic materials and leaving them to decompose independently. It is ideal for people who want to produce compost but don’t have the time or patience to tend to a hot compost pile. Cold compost piles do not heat up nearly as much as hot compost piles, so they take longer to break down entirely. However, worms and beneficial bacteria will make their way into the bank and break down the material into dark, rich compost over time.

To create a cold compost pile, start by choosing a spot in your yard that gets plenty of sunlight and has access to water. Create a 3-foot base with your first round of materials, then add more layers in alternating wet and dry materials until you have created a pile that is no more than 3 to 4 feet high. Smaller sizes can be effective too. 

Wrapping Up

The purpose of mulch is to keep the soil moist and protect it from destructive chemicals and temperature fluctuations. Mulch also helps prevent erosion and evaporation, prevents grass from growing through the compost, and protects your plants from harmful diseases. Even though you will be using some organic matter to do this, remember that mulch is not organic gardening by itself.