At Seedlings Gardening we generally use four kinds of mulch for our various projects. You may or may not have heard of them all: shredded wood, cedar chips, pecan shells and pine needles.
Reserve the shredded wood and cedar chips for general landscape beds,
i.e. around trees, flower beds, that sort of stuff.
These mulches are great when sitting on top of the soil. Don’t use them for vegetable gardens. It takes a really long time and a lot of nitrogen to decompose shredded wood and cedar chips – so much that if either one is mixed into the soil, the process of breaking down the mulch will tie up most of the available nitrogen which will end up slowing plant growth.
You dig around regularly in a vegetable garden as you plant throughout the season. While you should always move mulch off to the side when planting, eventually and inevitably some of it is going get mixed up in your soil. Best if it’s not robbing important nutrients and disrupting a balanced cycle.
We stick to pine needles or pecan mulch for vegetable gardens.
Both resist compaction more than wood mulch allowing water to gradually make its way into the soil (instead of running off) and they look pretty (or unique if you prefer that to “pretty”). Pine needles will make the pH of your soil slightly more acidic which is actually great for vegetable gardens; though, they’re somewhat difficult to source in Austin (perhaps the Houston area would have better access to pine needles?). Pecan shells are locally available in Central Texas and they’re even used to amend soil sometimes – the squishy material inside the shell mimics the spongy nature of compost and slowly releases water into the soil.
So there you have it, friends. If you’re planting a vegetable garden we recommend saying “no” to shredded wood and cedar chip mulch. Lay it on thick with either pine needles or pecan shells!
Do you use a different kind of mulch that works well in a vegetable garden?