How To Mulch Properly?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:58 pm

You have decided to mulch your garden, the time has come and all mulching materials are ready.

But how to mulch properly? And how to apply different mulch materials in the garden?

How To Mulch Properly?

You can find such a step-by-step guide for all different mulching materials in this article.

Wie mulcht man richtig?

To mulch the garden properly, organic mulch materials should be spread about 5 cm thick. Materials such as hedge trimmings should be chopped as finely as possible, or other green waste such as cabbage or comfrey leaves should be wilted. Mineral mulch materials, on the other hand, can be spread to a thickness of approx. 5-7 cm, either with an underlying non-woven fabric or without.

How to mulch properly?

It’s great that you’ve come this far and decided to mulch your garden. So now the only question is “how”?

But that should not be a problem as the last step, because mulching in the garden turns out to be quite simple.

Nevertheless, depending on the mulch material you use, be it compost, lawn clippings or leaves, there are individual tips and tricks you should follow when mulching. All of these details can be found in the following sections where I have summarized a guide to proper mulching for all materials.

Overall, though, you should be careful not to overwhelm your garden with the amount of mulch you use. Otherwise, you may not get enough rain or air to the soil.

As a rule of thumb with all mulch materials, a layer of about 5 inches is considered sufficient. If you ever doubt whether you have spent the right amount or not, rather follow the principle “less is more” than the other way around 🙂

How to mulch with organic mulch materials.

Organic mulch materials are any materials that decompose over time through biodegradation processes. That is, anything made of wood, cellulose or other carbon compounds like soil.

Mulching with lawn clippings

Lawn clippings can be used both to mulch the lawn itself and to mulch beds.

If you spread your lawn cuttings directly on the lawn, you can do this without any problems every time you mow the lawn by simply mowing the lawn without a collection basket. However, you should make sure that the grass cuttings are quite fine or short, preferably no longer than approx. 2 cm.

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If the grass cuttings are somewhat longer or coarser, I would recommend using them for mulching elsewhere, for example under raspberry plants or on other beds.

To do this, after mowing, simply spread the grass clippings about 2-4 cm thick on the ground under the shrubs or around the vegetable plants. You can do this every 2-3 weeks throughout the season without any problems.

Mulching with compost

Compost is probably one of the most popular mulching materials and can generally be used in two ways.

On the one hand, quite classically as a finished humus, and on the other hand, as a pure mulch material in the fall.

The classic, finished humus is best applied to the beds in the spring. Then work the humus in as well as possible so that the nutrients get into the soil and the soil is prepared for the garden year in the best possible way.

Alternatively, you can use compost in the fall to mulch the beds. You can also use only semi-finished compost and spread it on the beds before winter. The compost protects the beds over winter and also completely decomposes so that it can be worked into the beds in spring.

Kompost zum Mulchen

Mulching with leaves or hedge trimmings

To mulch your garden with leaves, you just need to spread the collected leaves under perennials, or on the beds.

Since the volume of leaves is very large, it is recommended to take care not to pile them too high, so that light continues to reach the plants. Again, make sure you stick to a height of about 5 inches of mulch.

Mulching with hedge clippings is similar to mulching with leaves, except that you should make sure to shred them sufficiently.

If there are still coarse but also smaller branches, it is best to shred the hedge trimmings once before applying them to the beds.

If you spread it on beds, the rule is “the smaller the better”, but if you spread it under fruit trees, for example, the chopped hedge cuttings can be a bit coarser.

Green waste for mulching

Mulching with stalks of green manure, perennial waste, cabbage or rhubarb leaves or potato leaves.
You can also mulch your garden beautifully with what you think is garden waste, such as perennials, cabbage or rhubarb leaves, or potato foliage.

And the best part is that it’s quite simple and requires little effort 🙂 .

Because these materials can easily be left on the harvested beds after harvest. If you like, you can still shred the stems or leaves a bit, but you don’t have to.

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Since you don’t have to dig up your beds in the fall, you can even leave the leaves and stems on the bed until next spring and then incorporate them.

If you want to know why you shouldn’t dig up your beds in the fall, check it out here.

Mulching with nettles and comfrey leaves

Mulching with nettles and comfrey leaves is also very simple but effective.

Similar to the perennial or vegetable waste, nettles and comfrey leaves can simply be placed on the beds.

For this, the leaves are best already a little wilted, so that the decomposition process does not take so long.

But don’t worry, both nettles and comfrey leaves usually decompose very quickly. Depending on weather and conditions, this can take as little as a few weeks.

Mulching with bark mulch, pine bark, wood chips or cocoa shells.

Mulching with bark or pine mulch, wood chips or cocoa shells is very similar.

Here you will find…

➤ Bark mulch*

➤ Pine mulch*

➤ Wood chips*

➤ Cocoa shells*

When you use these materials to create your paths in the garden you can do so at any time and as often as you like. The thickness of the material is also a matter of taste.

However, if you spread bark mulch and co. under bushes or trees, you should pay attention to the right thickness depending on the type of material, while the time of spreading is not important.

If you use coarse material, you should apply it about 7-10 cm thick, while fine material should only be applied about 3-5 cm thick.

At these amounts, the effect of the mulch materials is ideal by releasing nutrients and preventing weeds.

So as soon as your bark or pine mulch or cocoa shells have sunk below the ideal amount you can always add some more.

Mulching with straw

Straw is very suitable for mulching in very special cases.

On the one hand, you can use straw as a substitute for bark mulch and for spreading paths in your garden. You can do this all year round and mend as often as needed.

On the other hand, straw is often used to mulch strawberry beds or where pumpkins or zucchini grow.

There, however, you should not apply the straw until after flowering, which is late spring for strawberries and summer for zucchini or squash.

Then simply spread the straw carefully under the plants so that the fruit is protected from moisture and dirt.

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Mulching with mulching paper, mulching film or weed fleece.

Mulch paper (like this organic quality one) or mulch film you can use for all kinds of vegetables, especially those that like it a little warmer like tomatoes or cucumbers.

For this, you should spread the paper or film so that the seedlings peek out of the film and also have enough room to grow.

You can then leave the film on the beds until after the harvest and then simply remove it again.

If you have a biodegradable film, you can dispose of its remains in the compost after the season. If you have a non-biodegradable film, you can reuse it next year if it is in good condition.

How to mulch with mineral mulch materials.

Mulching with mineral materials, mainly stones or other crystalline materials, is also quite simple and differs little or not at all depending on the material.

Mineral mulch materials such as gravel, grit, lava or shells can be spread throughout the year.

If a rock garden is to be planted, it can be done with or without a weed mat. In either case, the soil should be kept as weed-free as possible before planting.

Then set the plants and either lay out a weed fleece first or apply the mulch material directly to the soil.

For all mineral mulches, a height of about 5-7 cm is sufficient, but may vary depending on use.

If, for example, you are going to mulch your paths with stones and also frequently drive over them with a heavy wheelbarrow, you will probably need a little more mulch material, since the existing one is more likely to be compressed or to sag.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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