How to Use Black Mulch in the Garden


Mulch is anything you lay on the ground to prevent weeds, retain soil moisture and help keep your soil both warm in cool weather and cool in warm weather. While mulch is typically organic material such as compost or dried leaves, it also can be man-made. Black plastic is often used as mulch because it effectively blocks weed growth and keeps soil warm or cool. But it does not allow rainwater to penetrate the soil and benefit your garden, except around the base of plants, where you have cut holes for them. Consider using porous black shade cloth or landscape fabric instead---your soil will thank you for allowing it to breathe.

Using Black Mulch

Step 1

Determine where you need mulch. Vegetable gardens are prime locations that benefit from all types of mulch, but you can use it around fruit trees, roses and other ornamentals.

Step 2

Spread a layer of compost over your planting area before you lay down your black mulch. If you want to set up a drip irrigation system, do this beforehand as well, especially if you will be using black plastic.

Step 3

Spread your black mulch over the planting area before you plant your plants, if possible. Cut it to fit your planting area. Then plot out where you will plant each plant. Cut "Xs" with scissors every place you plan to put a plant. Consider their adult size and be sure to leave sufficient space between the holes you cut. If you wish, you can anchor your plastic mulch with earth staples or cut pieces of wire coat hangers.

Step 4

Plant your plants in the holes you have cut by folding back the corners of your "Xs."

Step 5

Water your plants at their bases to ensure that the maximum amount of moisture gets through to the soil.

Step 6

Control snails and slugs, which can thrive under black mulch, by spreading iron phosphate granules (sold as the commercial product "Sluggo") around your garden area. You can also make beer traps by burying small jars in strategic locations and keeping them full with beer.

Tips and Warnings

  • The only place you would not want plastic mulch is on top of a lawn because it will suffocate your prized greenery.

Things You'll Need

  • Black plastic or shade cloth
  • Scissors
  • Earth staples


  • Lawn and Garden Magic
  • Organic Black Mulch Product

Who Can Help

  • Earth Staples
Keywords: black mulch, gardening plastic, weed prevention

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.