What mulches work well for weed suppression in the vegetable garden?

Question:

What mulches work well for weed suppression in the vegetable garden?

Answer:

Mulches control weeds by preventing the germination of weed seeds. Established weeds should be destroyed prior to the application of the mulch. 

Excellent mulches for vegetable gardens include: 

  • Grass clippings
  • Shredded leaves
  • Coco hulls
  • Weed-free straw

Apply several inches of these materials in early June after the soil has warmed sufficiently.  Plant growth may be slowed if these materials are applied when soil temperatures are still cool in early spring. These materials break down rather quickly and can be tilled into the soil in the fall or following spring.

Biodegradable materials like newspaper, cardboard, and planters paper have also been successfully used in vegetable gardens as mulch.  As with other mulches, start with a weed-free area.  Spread newspaper four to ten layers thick or cardboard one or two layers thick.  Thoroughly wet the paper or cardboard and cover it with a layer of mulch or topsoil to help hold it in place. These paper materials typically break down in one growing season and can be tilled into the soil in the fall or following spring. 

Wood chips and shredded bark can be used in the vegetable garden but take several years to decompose.  This can be difficult to manage in this setting, especially as it relates to cultivation and planting in future years.  For this reason, these mulches are not typically used with annuals, like vegetables.

More information about using mulch in the vegetable garden can be found in this article: Weed Control in the Vegetable Garden

Answered by
  • Specialist
  • Consumer Horticulture Extension
Last updated on
March 20, 2024