Guide to Landscape Mulch

Spring is the time to mulch your landscapes, flower beds and trees  in Salem County, New Jersey. Did you know there are only two types of mulch? So, what is the best mulch for your property? In this article we will discuss the types of mulch and its many uses for your property. 

Wondering which mulch will benefit your garden and landscape?

Let’s look.

Organic and Inorganic Mulch

When planning your landscape this spring, know that there are two different types of mulch to consider: organic vs. inorganic. Both are good at suppressing weeds and either ‌can add visual value to your property. But only one type of mulch can provide your flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plant life with nutrients as it decomposes. Inorganic mulch doesn’t mean it has chemicals or is not made of natural materials. Most inorganic mulch beds are made of rocks & stone. 

Let’s take a look at these two types of mulch.

Stone and Rock for landscape beds in Salem County NJ
Inorganic Mulch
Organic mulch in Salem County New Jersey
Organic Mulch

Organic Mulch

They make all organic mulch of natural materials. As it decomposes into the soil, it feeds the landscape plants that it protects. Organic mulch comes from many sources. 


Type of Organic Mulch:

  • Compost
  • Straw
  • Woodchips
  • Bark
  • Spent mushroom compost
  • Pine Straw & Needles
  • Saw Dust
  • Horse, Barn and Stable Bedding

Shredded Wood & Bark

Wood mulch (dyed and undyed), pine bark, cedar chips, and shredded leaves offer an attractive option for your yard, it keeps in moisture, maintains soil temperatures, and keeps most pests away from your plants and flowers. However, wood mulch needs to be maintained by adding a little each spring. As this organic mulch decays into the soil. 

Shredded wood mulch is the most popular used mulch by landscapers in Salem County, New Jersey.



  • Helps prevent soil erosion
  • Controls weeds
  • Can feed nutrients to soil


  • Requires more maintenance/upkeep
  • Susceptible to fungal growth during wet periods




Using compost mulch makes your plants healthier, builds strong root systems, and is a soil that has higher levels of nutrients to improve flower, vegetable gardens and shrubs. You can even add it around trees as long as it doesn’t touch the trunk. 



  • Helps distribute organic matter (nutrients) in soil.
  • Prevents weed growth
  • Can be made at home


  • Fresh mulch can scorch plants as it produces heat. Hot Compost!

Inorganic Mulch

Common types of inorganic mulch are rocks, stone or gravel, plastic sheeting, landscape fabric, and rubber mulch. Inorganic mulches do not decompose. The longest-lasting mulch is stone, but keep in mind some of its drawbacks, such as little weed protection. They can use many inorganic mulches in combination, like fabric under stone or rubber mulch. 


Inorganic Mulch Materials

  • Gravel
  • Rocks
  • Stone
  • Fabric
  • Plastic
  • Rubber Mulch

Pros & Cons of Non-Organic Mulch


  • It lasts longer than inorganic mulch
  • Cheaper long term.


  • Harder to change the look
  • Doesn’t control weeds as well as organic
Man doing yard work chores spreading mulch around landscape bushes from a wheelbarrow

Different Uses for Mulch Around the House

Mulch Landscaping Ideas

  • Flower Bed Dressing
  • Mulch Walkways with Stepping Stones
  • Vegetable Gardens (mostly compost, tilled in)
  • Tree Beds


One thing to remember about mulch is, you do not have to lay anything down first. What you ‌ need to do before mulching is to dig out or clean the mulch area of weeds. If you decide to lay down a landscape fabric or plastic sheeting, remember at some point it will have to come out at some point because it doesn’t decompose. 


That being said, a good geo-fabric should be placed under small to medium-sized stone so they don’t sink in or get mixed with the soils below.


You can combine organic mulch with a rock garden to accent the stones and make them really stick out in the landscape. Inorganic mulch like stone, gravel and rock can be used under your deck to choke out weeds. Under the deck is also a place to use landscape fabric or plastic. These stone and rock bases also help slow erosion from the rainwater that flows from between the deck boards.

wood walkway
Stone mulch with a wood deck.

Mulch for Different Soil Types

We should consider different types of mulch for the types of plants you intend to plant in the flower beds or around trees. Have you ever noticed how grass doesn’t grow well under pine or spruce trees? It is because of the acids in the needles. That being said, many shrubs like acidic mulch.

Mulch for Acidic Soil and Alkaline Soil

If you’re trying to grow acid-loving plants like azaleas and rhododendrons. For these plants, use a mulch that releases acid, such as pine straw or pine bark. In contrast, hardwood mulches turn soil alkaline. Shredded hardwood mulch is good for almost any plant that doesn’t require an acidic environment. 


The majority of shrubs, vegetables, fruits, and flowers do best in soil with pH ranging from 5.2 to 7.8. So choose a mulch that leans toward your flower bed plant soil preferences. 


Acid-Loving Plants:

  • Vegetables: sweet corn, cucumbers, beans, broccoli, turnips, squash, onions.
  • Fruits: cranberries, blueberries, huckleberries.
  • Trees: evergreen perennial, beech, willow, oak, dogwood.
  • Flowering plants: azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, camellias, daffodils.


Alkaline Soils:

Most plants and trees will do well with alkaline soils. If your pH is between 7.1 and 8.0 then you are dealing with an alkaline soil. Neat trick is to put some soil in a jar with a little vinegar. If it froths up, you have alkaline soil. The best bet is if you’re a little on the acidic side with your soil, install a hardwood mulch instead of lime to neutralize the acid soil. In time the mulch will break down and stabilize the pH. 

Two hands full of rich moist dark soil or potting compost, for planting out small seedings.
Good flower bed compost

Related Articles

Landscape Mulch Colors

How Mulch Gets Its Color

A common question about dyes from homeowners. Are the dyes used in coloring the wood chips safe? The main concern with colored landscape mulches is not the dyes used for coloring. It is about the sources of wood chips and the possibility of contamination with toxic substances. For instance CCA stands for Chromium, Copper and Arsenic; chemicals used to preserve wood.

The dyes used in coloring wood mulch are primarily of two types: carbon-based dyes and iron oxide based dyes. Iron oxide, the most commonly used dye, is simply a compound of iron and oxygen. As the compound oxidizes, iron is released to the soil but is not considered being toxic.

Raking up soil and leaves, composting
Black Mulch
Pink Flowers In A Red Mulch Bed
Red Mulch
Front Yard Landscaping
Brown Mulch

Natural Colored Mulch

If you are worried about chemicals in your landscape mulch, plan on using natural undyed mulch. Make sure you find out where the wood chips or compost was made and from what. Ground pallets, construction waste and debris are not the best sources of ground wood mulch. 


Shredded hardwood mulch, pine bark mulch would be the best natural colored wood mulch to choose for your landscaping needs. A bonus if it is sourced locally.

Refresh Mulch with Stain

Can you re-stain your mulch? Yes, you can. Using a mulch stain dye that is mixed with water so that you can spray it on your existing mulch to renew the color. Making your mulch look fresh and new. It gives you the same look as new mulch. 


Rustoleum has a product called Renovator Mulch Color Refresh. According to the manufacturer it is an easy-to-use renewal spray that gives fresh color to old or faded mulch. The ready-to-use gallon is compatible with all pump sprayers for even application. Mulch Color Refresh is non-toxic and available in three popular colors to customize and enhance any landscape.


Renovator Mulch Stain Benefits

  • Gives fresh color to faded mulch in minutes
  • Superior fade resistance
  • One coat application
  • Safe for pets, plants, and wildlife
  • Available in 3 popular colors: brown, black, and red
  • Coverage: up to 350 sq ft per gallon with one coat


Other popular brands of mulch stain, paints and dyes include: 

  • ColorBack you can get at Amazon and some home and garden centers. 
  • Another non-toxic brand of mulch stain is SolarFast by SolarGen.
Landscape contractor, mulch installation, flower bed maintenance

Landscape Mulch FAQ

Should you put plastic under mulch?

When using mulch in your landscape, there is no need for the use of artificial weed barriers such as plastic or landscape fabric. These materials may not work in the long run. They are only necessary under stone. That is to prevent the soil from mixing with the stone.


How thick should mulch be?

Spread your mulch to be two to four inches thick. If your mulch is too thin, then weeds can push through. If your mulch is too thick, it prevents water from reaching the soil. 


Is it OK to mulch around trees?

You can mulch around trees, but you should only put down about an inch or two. If you put down a thick layer of mulch, it could encourage the tree’s roots to grow up in the mulch and not down into the ground.


Should you remove mulch every year?

Expert landscapers state that getting rid of last year’s mulch is completely unnecessary. Mulch gradually breaks down, adding beneficial nutrients and other organic matter to the soils.


How much mulch do I need?

Simply, measure your garden or flower bed. Length times width, times thickness. For every inch thick, use the factor of 08.

So say you want a mulch bed 3 inches thick .08 times 3 or .24 is the thickness. 


Example: 10 foot long x 6 foot wide x 3 inches thick. (10x6x.024=14.4 cubic feet)


When choosing the right mulch for your landscape needs, think more about the long term of the bed, plantings and not so much the color of the mulch. As we have shown above, you can always change the color next year. Need help with your landscaping mulch or looking to have bulk shredded mulch delivered? Contact us for a FREE Quote. 

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