The information contained in these web pages has not been
verified for correctness. Some of the information contained herein is hearsay and may not
be correct. Use the information from these pages only at your own risk!
Applying mulch to your garden is a good conservation practice. Thick
mulches help prevent loss of top soil from wind and water erosion; reduce soil compaction,
decrease water loss from the soil through evaporation; lessen soil temperature
fluctuations and, as they decompose and become incorporated in the soil, improve soil
Weathered wood chips (nuggets or bark), sawdust, grass clippings, straw,
pine needles or oak leaves, dehydrated or aged manures, chopped leaves, and compost are
good mulching materials. A three-to six-inch layer will control most weed growth. Be sure
not to bury any plant. Do not pile the mulch against plant bases, and always keep mulch
away from plant crowns by a good three to four inches. Moist mulch laying against the
plant's bark eventually results in trunk rot.
Clippings from a lawn which has not been treated with a broadleaf killer
make a good mulch when mixed with another material such as peat. Clippings alone are
inclined to pack down and interfere with water penetration of the soil.
Winter mulching is of prime importance to transplants and of great
benefit to all established plantings. Mulches for winter protection are applied after the
soil has begun to harden. Too early applications provide "room and board" for
small animals which move in and make their nests under the mulch in the fall. Protected by
the mulch and a snow cover, they feed on bark and roots of thin-barked ornamentals and of
fruit trees, in particular, during the food-scarce weeks of winter.
Winter mulches are pulled away from garden plants in early spring to
promote earlier warming of the soil by the sun. New mulches for the summer are laid down
after the soil has warmed and fertilizer has been applied, usually by the first or second
week of June in New England. If the old winter mulch seems to be in good condition, it may
be raked or pushed back in place for another year.
Aluminum foil or backed paper, will not decompose,
apply one layer.
Advantages: Increases light around plants; aphids and other insects
Disadvantages: Can tear if handled roughly. Expensive. Artificial
Comments: Keeps ground very cool. Apply only after ground has warmed up.
Bark chips, bio-degradable, apply 2-3 inches.
Advantages: Attractive; good for permanent mulch. Reusable.
Disadvantages: May hinder water penetration.
Comments: Decomposes slowly unless composted first. Redwood decomposes
slowest; may repel insects. Reusable.
Brick chips, will not decompose, apply 2-3 inches.
Advantages: Cheaper than stone mulch. Non-flammable.
Disadvantages: Not readily available; high moisture retention. No
organic matter added.
Comments: Decorative; made from brick overburns.
Compost, bio-degradable, apply 1-2 inches.
Advantages: Contributes nutrients; turns quickly to humus.
Disadvantages: Needs heating period to kill off weed seeds and diseases;
may have unpleasant odor.
Comments: Plan and start ahead so compost will be ready.
Corncobs and cornstalks, bio-degradable, apply 3-4
Advantages: Readily available in most areas. Good weed control.
Disadvantages: Water doesn't penetrate well; may generate heat.
Comments: Add nitrogen to aid decomposition. Avoid diseased stalks and
cobs. Best chopped.
Cottonseed hulls, bio-degradable, apply 2-4 inches.
Advantages: Fertilizing value similar cottonseed meal.
Disadvantages: Very light, wind scatters.
Comments: Keeps down weeds between rows. Top layer of another mulch
Grass clippings (dry), bio-degradable, apply 2-3
Advantages: Improves soil by adding organic matter.
Disadvantages: Absorbent; may carry weed seed.
Comments: Mix with other materials to prevent packing. Bottom layer
decomposes rapidly; add more.
Hay, bio-degradable, apply 4-6 inches.
Advantages: Legume hays (alfalfa) add nitrogen.
Disadvantages: First cut hay full of weed seeds. Poor weed control.
Comments: Fewer weed seeds in 2nd or 3rd cut. Fluff up during season.
Leaves, bio-degradable, apply 2-3 inches.
Advantages: Contain many trace minerals; best food for earthworms.
Disadvantages: May become soggy and pack, hindering water penetration.
Comments: Chip or mix with another mulch to prevent matting.
Paper, bio-degradable, apply 5-6 pages or 4-6 inches,
Advantages: May add trace minerals. Decomposes readily. Newspaper or
Disadvantages: May pack and hinder water penetration. Scatters. Lead in
colored pages; use black and white only.
Comments: Hold edges with rocks or dirt. Best shredded. Frost
Peanut hulls, bio-degradable, apply 2-3 inches.
Advantages: Adds nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium; decomposes rapidly.
Disadvantages: Not readily available in North.
Comments: Attractive to rodents if not completely free of peanuts.
Peat moss, bio-degradable, apply 3-5 inches.
Advantages: Clean and free of weed seeds. Improves water retention when
tilled into sandy soil.
Disadvantages: Extremely absorbent, water penetration hindered;
expensive. Adds little or no nutrients.
Comments: Good soil conditioner to loosen heavy soils; acidic.
Pine needles, bio-degradable, apply 3-4 inches.
Advantages: Light; usually free of weed seeds; absorbs little moisture.
Does not pack. Reusable.
Disadvantages: Decomposes very slowly.
Comments: Add nitrogen for faster decomposition. Slightly acidic.
Polyethelene (black or clear), will not decompose,
apply one layer.
Advantages: Retains but absorbs no moisture. Black is effective weed
Disadvantages: Weeds grow under clear plastic. Rain can't go through
easily. Adds no nutrients.
Comments: Warms soil--effective with tropical crops (melons, tomatoes).
Ground must be moist before applying.
Rock, crushed gravel or marble chips, will not
decompose, apply 1-2 inches.
Advantages: Relatively inexpensive; not absorbent. Water penetrates,
Disadvantages: Poor weed control. Adds no organic matter to soil.
Comments: Should be considered permanent mulch.
Salt marsh hay, bio-degradable, apply 4-6 inches.
Advantages: Usually weed-free; available in marshy areas or along coast.
Disadvantages: Not available to everyone. Expensive if purchased.
Comments: Till under at end of season. Chopping may make more
Straw, bio-degradable, apply 4-6 inches.
Advantages: Adds nutrients; lightens soil when tilled under at end of
Disadvantages: Can be a fire hazard.
Comments: Add nitrogen to aid decomposition unless aged.
Vermiculite or perlite, will not decompose, apply 1-2
Advantages: Totally sterile, so will not carry disease. No weed seeds.
Disadvantages: Expensive; very light; scatters. Hinders water
Comments: Good for greenhouse use.
Topics: Sponsored by CIIFAD's Mulch-Based Agriculture Working Group at Cornell, this
list has been set up for the interdisciplinary exchange of information on cover crops,
green manures and other woody/non-woody mulch-based agricultural systems. The term
"mulch" refers to a litter layer of vegetative biomass which is cut and left on
(or partially incorporated into) the soil. Feel free to post questions or share
information that may be relevant for others involved in research or extension of
sustainable agriculture practices that include mulch as a component. Interest is primarily
focused upon tropical farming systems (i.e. maize/mucuna rotation, "frijol
tapado" and contour hedgerow mulch systems) that are relevant to resource-poor
farmers, more general information that relates to the study of mulch-based agriculture is
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Seed Starter : A Guide to Growing Flower, Vegetable, and Herb Seeds Indoors and
Outdoors - by Maureen Heffernan - Publication Date: January 1, 1997 - List: $19.95 A
complete, easy-to-use gardening manual covering the basics of starting plants from seed.
Discusses indoor and outdoor cultivation, how to purchase seed, seed viability, gardening
equipment, planting charts and light requirements, planting dates, and other valuable
Processing and Germinating Seeds of Wildland Plants - by Cheryl Young, James A. Young
- Publication Date: October 1, 1986 - List: $24.95
Seeds : Native American Agriculture and Wild Plant Conservation - by Gary Paul Nabhan
- Publication Date: April 1, 1991 - List: $14.00
- From Seed
to Plant - by Gail Gibbons - Publication Date: March 1, 1991 - List: $15.95 Explores
the intricate relationship between seeds and the plants which they produce.
Gardening : A Kid's Guide to Messing Around in the Dirt/With Seeds - by Kevin Raftery,
Kim Gilbert Raftery, Jim M'Guinness - Publication Date: May 1, 1989 - List: $13.95
Now young readers will know from whence those carrots came. This full-color
extravaganza contains nearly a hundred pages of wipe-clean cardstock, hundreds of
illustrations, dozens of growing activities, plus 15 varieties of vegetable, flower, and
of Seed Science and Technology - by Larry O. Copeland, Miller B. McDonald, Lawrence O.
Copeland - Publication Date: March 1, 1995 - List: $74.95
Seeds : The Gardener's Guide to Growing and Storing Vegetable and Flower Seeds - by
Marc Rogers, Polly Alexander (Illustrator) - Publication Date: March 1991 - List: $12.95
- Seed to
Seed - by Suzanne Ashworth - Publication Date: January 1, 1995 - List: $20.00
: The Definitive Guide to Growing, History, and Lore - by H. Peter Loewer, Peter Loewer -
Publication Date: April 1, 1996 - List: $25.00
Loewer examines the vast and often surprisingly complex world of seeds in an
unparalleled thoroughness. In addition to the how-to of growing all kinds of plants and
vegetables from seed, the book also considers the role of seeds in history, literature,
and business. 100 line drawings.
- Seeds and
Propagation (Smith & Hawken--The Hands-On Gardener) - by Susan McClure, Jim
Anderson (Illustrator) - Publication Date: June 1, 1997 - List: $10.95
- The New
Seed Starter's Handbook - by Nancy Bubel - Publication Date: April 1, 1988 - List:
- Gardening In Deer Country - by Vincent
Drzewucki - Publication Date: January, 1998 - List: $9.95
- 200 Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Northeast - by
Miranda Smith - Publication Date: February 1996 - List: $7.95
- 200 Tips for Growing Vegetables in the Pacific Northwest -
by Maggie Stuckey - Publication Date: February 1996 - List: $7.95
- Building Your
Own Greenhouse (Greenhouse Basics) - by Mark
Freeman, Heather Bellanca (Illustrator) - Publication Date: April 1997 - List: $18.95
- Burpee : The
Complete Vegetable & Herb Gardener : A Guide to Growing Your Garden
Organically - by Karan Davis Cutler, Cavagnarok David
(Photographer), Barbara W. Ellis - Publication Date: November 1997 - List: $29.95
A companion to Burpee Complete Gardener, this book focuses on all aspects of growing
organic vegetables and edible herbs in the home garden. Planting techniques and tools,
garden design, and more than 90 individual plant portraits are included. 300 full-color
Gardens : From Garden to Palate - by Susan McClure
- Publication Date: September 1997 - List: $37.95
Acres and Independence: A Handbook for Small Farm Management - by Maurice Grenville
Kains, Maurice G. Kain - Publication Date: March 1978 - List: $7.95
Harvest : How to Harvest Fresh Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long
- by Eliot Coleman, Kathy Bary (Illustrator) - Publication Date: October
1992 - List: $19.95
Booknews, Inc. , 01/01/93:
Everyone who grows vegetables must know Coleman. He's the organic methods expert--the one
who knows how to maximize both garden yield and gardening pleasure, year round. Annotation
copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.
Under Cover : A Northwest Guide to Solar Greenhouses, Cold Frames, and Cloches
- by William Head - Publication Date: November 1989 - List: $10.95
This is a complete guide to gardening with protective shelters that encourages both
beginning and experienced gardeners to add months of gardening pleasure at small expense.
With a little under-cover gardening know-how, Pacific Northwest gardeners can take
advantage of our mild climate to produce flowers, herbs, and vegetables throughout the
- Grow It :
The Beginner's Complete In-Harmony-With-Nature Small Farm Guide-From Vegetable and Grain
Growing to Livestock Care - by Richard W. Langer, Susan
McNeill (Illustrator) - Publication Date: January 1994 - List: $12.00
An indispensable guide to small-scale organic farming that features advice on everything
from building and stocking a pond to planting an orchard or making cheese. This extremely
practical and easy-to-use guide, first published in 1972, is for full-time or part-time
- Growing Great
Garlic : The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers -
by Ron L. Engeland - Publication Date: July 1995 - List: $14.95
Vegetable Gardening : A Master Gardener's Guide to Planting, Growing, Seed Saving, and
Cultural History - by William Woys Weaver - Publication
Date: June 1997 - List: $45.00
Weaver focuses on 280 varieties of 37 vegetables in this encyclopedic guide to the history
and cultivation of some of America's most treasured heirloom vegetables. 100+ color
photos. 240 line drawings.
- A Dyer's
Garden : From Plant to Pot Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers - by
Rita Buchanan - Publication Date: August 1995 - List: $9.95
- A Produce
Reference Guide to Fruits and Vegetables from Around the World : Nature's Harvest
- by Donald D. Heaton - Publication Date: April 1997 - List: $29.95
- Growing Plants
from Seed : A Comprehensive Beginners Handbook for Vegetables, Flowers, Herbs and More
- by George Abraham, Katy Abraham, Doc Abraham - Publication Date: January
1992 - List: $13.95
A guide for first-time seed growers addresses soil mixtures, lighting, types of seed,
seed-starting kits, and more to help any gardener experience the rewarding feeling of
growing flowers and vegetables from seed. Original.
- Peppers : The Domesticated Capsicums - by
Jean Andrews - Publication Date: October 1995 - List: $65.00
Booknews, Inc. , 04/01/96:
An updated edition (first, 1984) of an elegantly produced, scholarly reference on
peppers--their history and dispersion, biology, taxonomy, cultivation, and medicinal,
economic, and gastronomic uses. Illustrated with the author's botanically accurate,
aesthetically pleasing paintings that show the blossoms, buds, young peppers, and mature
specimens of 34 cultivars. A review of the literature, a photo glossary, and an extensive
bibliography add to the volume's reference value. 9x12" Annotation c. by Book News,
Inc., Portland, Or.
- Peppers of the
World : An Identification Guide - by Dave Dewitt,
Paul W. Bosland - Publication Date: January 1997 - List: $19.95
Propagation : Principles and Practices - by Hudson
Thomas Hartmann (Editor), Dale E. Kester, Fred T., Jr. Davies - Publication Date: January
1997 - List: $86.00
The publisher, Prentice-Hall Career & Technology :
Hallmarked as the most successful text of its kind, this remarkably thorough text covers
all aspects of the propagation of plants - both sexual and asexual - with considerable
attention given to human (vs natural) efforts to increase plant numbers.
Gardening : Cultivating an Edible Landscape - by
Robert A. De J. Hart - Publication Date: September 1996 - List: $17.95
- Handbook of Organic Food Processing and Production -
by Simon Wright (Editor) - Publication Date: October 1994 - List: $119.00
- Introduction to Permaculture - by Bill
Mollison, Reny Mia Slay - Publication Date: November 1997 - List: $16.95
- Profitable Organic Farming - by Jon Newton - Publication
Date: June 1995 - List: $36.95
- The New
Organic Grower : A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market
Gardener - by Eliot Coleman, Sheri Amsel (Illustrator), Molly Cook Field
(Illustrator) - Publication Date: October 1995 - List: $24.95
Booknews, Inc. , 05/01/96:
This expansion of a now-classic guide originally published in 1989 is intended for the
serious gardener or small-scale market farmer. It describes practical and sustainable ways
of growing superb organic vegetables, with detailed coverage of scale and capital,
marketing, livestock, the winter garden, soil fertility, weeds, and many other topics.
Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
- The Art of the Kitchen Garden - by Jan Gertley,
Michael Gertley - Publication Date: January 1999 - List
This page was last updated on November 16, 2002