How to Make Mulch – A Quick Guide

Mulch is a highly useful gardening product because it comes with a wide range of benefits including keeping the soil moist and your plants healthy. There are various types of mulch that you can buy at any garden store for a good price, but you can also make your very own for a lot cheaper.

Making mulch is easier than you think and is a good way of reusing the scraps from your garden. You can use many ingredients as you want or you can also go for just one ingredient. In this guide, we’ve got everything you need to know to make your own mulch at home so let’s go ahead and take a look!

Collect Mulching Ingredients


The first step is to collect the material you’re planning to turn into mulch. Here are some suggestions:

  • Leaves – Before you use leaves for mulching, spread them out into a pile about two inches thick. Run them over a few times with your lawn mower to shred them up into little pieces. avoid using eucalyptus and walnut leaves since they can prevent your plants from growing.
  • Pine needles, tree bark and branches– Also called pine straw, pine needles are a great option for mulching. Like with the leaves, rake up the needles into small piles and run them over with a shredder to break them down a little. A wood chipper, if you have one, would work as well, especially for tree bark and branches.  However, make sure to wear your safety goggles!
  • Grass Clippings – Make sure that the grass you’re using is completely pesticide free or it will harm your plants rather than help them. Avoid using damp or wet grass since it can interfere with the oxygen absorption of the soil. The ideal thing to do would be to leave the clippings out for a few days to dry completely. When they look lightly brown and feel lighter and loser, you’ll know they’re ready to be used.
  • Straw – If you haven’t got any straw on hand, you can always get some from your local farmer or even the garden store. While it might be a bit of a hassle to find straw, it’s well worth the trouble because it’ll save you a lot of money on regular store bought mulch.
  • Newspaper – You can also use shredded or whole sheets of newspapers. Newspapers that use organic inks are safe so you won’t need to worry about contamination.
  • Compost – If you’re using compost, make sure that it’s aged well. Aged compost will look dark and earthy. If the compost smells bad or is slimy, it means that it’s rotten so avoid using it.

Prepare the Materials

Run your mulching material over with a lawn mower or pass it through a wood chipper to break it up into little pieces. If you’re using a lawn mower, lay the material out in a layer about 2 inches thick. This will prevent your lawn mower blades from getting damaged.

Use and Store Your Homemade Mulch

mulch in the garden

Once everything is broken into small pieces, your mulch is ready to use. You can use it right away and store any extras in a ventilated barrel or a large bag with holes in it to allow oxygen to pass through. You can also spread it out on a tarp and cover it up to keep it safe from the elements. Don’t leave the mulch for too long, since it will lose nutrients the longer it’s stored.

If the mulch is stored in a place where there’s little or no ventilation, it will start to ferment. This is dangerous, because when fermented, it releases toxins high in pH which are deadly.

As we mentioned above, you can choose just one ingredient or you can mix up several different types together.

How to Use Mulch in the Garden

using mulch in the garden

Now that your homemade mulch is ready, it’s important to know how and when you can use it in the garden, so that your plants will get the most out of it. Here are some steps to follow:

1.Use it during summer and winter: The advantage of mulching during summer is that the mulch will help the garden soil to retain its moisture that’s necessary for keeping the roots of your plants cool. During winter, the mulch will help keep the soil warm and protect your plants from the frost.

2. Make sure to remove winter mulch: Summer mulch can be allowed to decay slowly over time but remember to remove winter mulch in spring. The best mulches to use during summer include various leaf mulches and compost. In winter, it’s best to use pine needles, bark and straw.

3. Do some weeding: Before you add mulch to your garden, make sure to pull out all the weeds. If you don’t remove all the weeds, the mulch will protect them and help them to thrive. This will be a problem for the plants that you’re actually growing.

4. Add liberal amounts but not too much: Make sure to add enough mulch to your garden. The amount you need to add depends on how shady or hot and sunny the garden bed is. Shadier areas need about 2 to 3 inches of mulch (5-8 cm) while sunnier areas need about 3 to 4 inches (8-10 cm).

For sunny and hot areas, use as much as 6 inches (15 cm).  Take a rake or shovel and spread the mulch carefully. Be careful not to add too much because this will kill your plants and trees.

5. Pull the mulch away from the base of your plants: Once you’ve spread the mulch over the garden bed, pull some of it away from the base of your plants. Leaving some distance between the mulch and the plant will allow air to circulate around the plant, providing ventilation that’s needed for optimal growth.

Should I Make My Own Mulch?

Making your own mulch at home is much more beneficial than buying from the garden store. The main benefit of homemade mulch is that it’s of much higher quality than any type of mulch you can buy from the store which means that your plants will be getting the best care.

 Making your own is also very satisfying and will give you a sense of pride and accomplishment. Therefore, we recommend making the effort and taking the time to make your own mulch.

The Take Away

As you can see, making mulch at home is extremely easy and it’s also a great way of clearing up your garden. By using it regularly, you’ll be able to have a beautiful garden, full of healthy plants and soil.

If you’d like to buy mulch instead of making it, here are some of the best options you can go for.