Mulch helps to maintain soil temperature, reduce weeds and erosion and retain moisture. Mulch also prevents soils splashing, which can reduce spreading disease to surrounding plants. According to Clemson University, "mulch is any material applied to the soil surface for protection or improvement of the area covered." Two types of mulch exist, organic and inorganic. Organic mulch includes naturally occurring substances like leaves, bark and pine needles. Inorganic mulch includes, pebbles, gravel and landscape fabrics, all of which never decompose, unlike organic mulch. When applied to the landscape around the house, mulch creates a kept, clean look to the garden.
Spread a 2 to 4-inch layer of compost around flowers within the garden. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, "yard waste compost makes an ideal mulch for annual and perennial gardens."
Scatter pecan shells, a mulch variety that is effective at retaining water in the soil, around landscape shrubs to bring texture to the garden. Long-lasting, pecan shells create contrast to the shrubs.
Mulch newly planted trees and shrubs to ensure proper establishment and help retain moisture in the root ball. Newly planted trees require a 3 to 4-inch in diameter ring of mulch around the tree for at least three years.
Add mulch around herbs and vegetables. Spread mulch over an entire herb bed, keeping a 2-inch area around the base of the plant free of mulch, thereby reducing rot to the plants. Use straw, the ideal mulch type for vegetable gardens.