When you are first starting in your Back to Eden garden, everything can be quite overwhelming, and you could feel somewhat lost. Like many others, you may not know what the difference between all these different types of mulch is and as a result ask yourself – what is the best mulch for my Back to Eden garden.
In this post, we will be precisely answering that question.
To give you a rough idea what to expect. I will be talking about three different types of mulch – pine bark mulch, compost, and woodchips.
Pine Bark as mulch
As the name suggests, pine bark mulch is being made from the bark of pines. The bark gets chipped and shredded into different sizes and forms which are then available for purchase. Pine bark mulch and bark mulch, in general, tend to break down slower which on the one hand means that your soil gets fed over an extended period but on the other side that your soil gets the nutrients slower.
When you are first starting, I would generally assume that the soil is depleted and its mineral content is low. What your soil needs in that state is nutrition, which it gets the fastest from mulch that breaks down quick.
What you should consider as well is that you need the right balance between carbonaceous materials (brown color) and nitrogen-rich materials (green color). With pine bark mulch you have a lot of carbonaceous (brown) materials but no nitrogen-rich materials.
For these reasons, pine bark mulch is not the ideal mulch.
Compost as mulch
Using organic compost is generally a good idea. With compost, all the carbonaceous (brown) and nitrogen-rich materials (green) are already broken down, and the nutrients are available for the soil. Make sure that there is the right balance between those materials. Usually a Carbon-Nitrogen (C: N) ratio of 1:2 or in simple terms: 2 parts green to 1 part brown is what you should consider using.
The main issue that I have with compost is that it can get expensive depending on the amount of used compost. When you are considering a layer of 4-6 inches over an area that's larger than 1 acre or even half an acre you need a lot of compost, and that can get expensive. In most cases buying the compost is not a practical solution.
The alternative would be to produce the compost yourself which is more economical. For that, you still need a lot of carbonaceous and nitrogen-rich materials which you need to get from somewhere. You might be able to get some for free for example from your yard waste but most likely not all the materials you would need. What you should also consider for making organic compost yourself is that you need a working composting system or setup and more importantly, it takes time many months to finish a good compost before you can use it.
Woodchips are the ideal and most economical solution. By the looks of it, many people seem to struggle to understand what exactly woodchips are and what the best type to use is.
What you generally want are chipped branches with twigs, needles, and leaves. This will give you a good mix of carbonaceous and nitrogen-rich materials that will break down over time and feed your soil. That means it is not what the name woodchips indicates – chipped wood. Woodchips are very economical as well. You should contact some of your local tree services and might be able to get them in bulk for a small price or even for free. Many of these companies see woodchips as a byproduct of their service that they have to get rid of.
One of the best arguments for woodchips is that you can get a lot of them even enough for large areas and that mainly for free.