A Guide to Oklahoma Mulch Types
When planting an Oklahoma garden, choosing which kind of mulch is best for your plants can be difficult. Oklahoma State University released a comprehensive list of various Oklahoma mulch types and their uses. This guide highlights a few of the mulch types we’ve found to be most effective, how to use them and which plants they work best with.
Peat moss is a dead material that forms when moss decomposes in peat. Made up of mostly moss, it decomposes slowly with absence of air. So slowly, in fact, that peat bogs only gain less than a millimeter in depth yearly, making it a nonrenewable resource.
Peat moss has an acidic pH, so it’s great mulch for acid-loving plants. Plants that grow well in a more acidic pH include holly, gardenias, azaleas, and blueberries. Peat moss is ideal for potted plants as well, because it can hold multiple times its weight in water and will distribute it evenly to the plant’s roots, but it must be mixed with other potting ingredients to be effective.
Sawdust is a surprisingly common form of mulch. It needs nitrogen to decompose, so it usually requires extra nitrogen when applied to avoid drawing nitrogen out of your plant’s roots. However, like peat moss, sawdust is a great type of mulch for acidic plants.
However, sawdust decomposes very quickly. It’s good practice to replenish your sawdust annually if it’s being used for mulching.
Cotton burr is considered the “leftover” of the cotton fiber, which includes the leaves, seeds, and stems. It used to be thrown away until farmers realized its incredible effects as mulch. Cotton plants soak up a lot of nutrients, so when the burrs are used as mulch, they return the nutrients to the plants.
Cotton burrs are also great for breaking up heavy clay, which is very common in Oklahoma. Cotton burr mulch works well for all plants, and they only require an inch, along with a layer of woodchips to hold the burrs down from the wind.
Instead of throwing away grass clippings after you finish mowing the lawn, those clippings can be reused as a simple form of mulch. Fresh or dry, grass clippings can add nutrients back into your plants, cool the roots, and conserve moisture. Grass clippings also contain nitrogen, a key nutrient to help plants grow.
Grass clippings are great for all plants, especially vegetables, and are effective in all seasons, even in autumn – but don’t overdo it. It’s good practice to only use a layer of grass clippings ¼ inch thick, to avoid rotting and overuse.
Compost is made up of kitchen and yard waste, like discarded egg shells and fruit peels. Instead of throwing away these items, they can be used as mulch in your garden. Why? Because of the incredible amount of nutrients that they provide to your plants!
Compost washes carbon and nitrogen into your plants, which improves the plants and the soil for growth. Composts require a thicker layer surrounding plants for the full effect, so two to four inches is ideal, especially for perennials. Compost can also be used as mulch year round – even in winter.
Wood mulch is a very common form of mulch, and it is very available, economical, and easy to work with. Wood chips are great for retaining moisture, controlling weeds, and moderating temperature.
Wood chips work well for most plants, except for trees, as they will start to rot. Covering the soil with two inches of wood chips is most effective for your plants.
Gravel is great mulch for long-lived perennials, trees, shrubs, and drought-resistant plants, like sage. Gravel mulch saves water by slowing the evaporation and shading the soil. During strong rains, gravel reduces runoff and protects your plants.
Unlike most mulch, gravel doesn’t absorb water, but lets the water flow to the soil. Only about one to two inches of gravel mulch are needed to be effective.
Using shredded newspaper as mulch for your garden is a great way to recycle, and it’s great for seed protection. Ideal for new flower beds, it can suppress weed growth, improve fertility, and moderate soil temperature. The newspaper will deprive weeds of sunlight, but will help fertilizers and water reach the soil more effectively.
Not much newspaper is needed for this to be effective; however, the newspaper must be wet when placed around your plants to encourage it to decompose into the soil.
There are many Oklahoma mulch options for your Oklahoma garden, but it’s important to use the type that works best for you and your plants. Need help with garden design and landscaping? Contact us today.