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For a Growing Garden

Photo by Elke Borkowski/GAP Photos

What's the secret to preventing weeds from sprouting? A 2-inch-deep topdressing, applied once the ground thaws, will do the trick. By selecting a mulch that suits your plants and site conditions, you'll get even more benefits, such as healthier soil and less erosion.


Photo by Andrew McCaul

Stone absorbs more heat than organic material, making gravel a death sentence for some plants and a haven for others. Reserve this option for succulent-filled or cold-climate gardens.

Cocoa Hulls

Photo by Andrew McCaul

These shells are filled with nutrients and maintain an attractive brown hue that darkens with age. They have a tendency to grow a harmless mold in humid climes. Warning: Like chocolate, cocoa hulls are toxic to dogs.

Shredded Bark

Photo by Andrew McCaul

The stringy texture makes it less prone to being washed down slopes, and its coarseness keeps it from breaking down too quickly. Carbon-rich bark is a good choice around shrubs and trees but less so for perennials.


Photo by Andrew McCaul

This black gold doesn't prevent weeds as well as woody mulches can, but it's excellent for building up nutrients and repairing soil. Spread a generous layer over your flower beds and vegetable patch.

Wood Chips

Photo by Andrew McCaul

You can't beat the price of wood chips, which many tree companies and townships give away for free. Chips break down slowly and are best used around shrubs and trees. One drawback: They turn gray with age.