Hi I'm Tricia, an organic gardener. I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply for a clean and sustainable environment for an enjoyable and rewarding experience Mulch can be a gardeners best friend as defined by the Colorado State University, mulch is any material that provides protection or improves the soil when applied to the soil surface mulches serve some important purposes in the garden they regulate soil temperature suppress weeds improve soil structure, reduce surface evaporation, protects shallow rooted plants from frost heave and improves water penetration and air movement compost is probably one of the most familiar mulching materials and a lot of gardeners will put about an inch of compost on top of the soil and then they'll add other types of mulching materials as well compost can be used alone as a mulch but there's a whole world of other mulching materials available. There are two types of mulches available: organic, which is plant matter and inorganic: such as plastics today we are going to be focusing on mulching in the vegetable garden inorganic mulches like plastic films come in a variety of colors and that's not for aesthetics plants have favorite mulch colors tomatoes, eggplants and strawberries like red peppers favor reflective mulches potatoes like the black mulching film. plastic mulches should be laid down on top of any irrigation lines and normally will need to be replaced every season the other category of mulches are organic mulches these are materials that decompose like straw, paper, bark, wood chips, grass clippings, finished compost and more in addition to water conservation, soil temperature regulation and weed suppression organic marches can actually help the soil when they decompose and make organic matter as well as help prevent erosion one of the misconceptions about organic mulches is that more is better and that's not the case you want to apply the organic mulches at the recommended depths and then reapply as it decomposes organic mulches should be laid down two to three inches thick for fine materials like compost or straw and three to four inches deep for course materials like bark or wood chips leave one to two inches of clear space around stems and as much as six inches of space from tree trunks this is because the moisture that the marches hold can cause rot around the stems and trunks. Grass clippings can be a great mulching material but make sure and put them down when they're dry or they could prevent water penetration also don't use any grass clippings that been treated with an herbicide high carbon mulches like bark, wood chips and straw work very well however as they decompose they can pull nitrogen from the soil and that can compete for the plants nutrients when you add a high carbon mulch during the growing season sprinkle a high nitrogen fertilizer such as this Compost Maker from E.B. Stone on top of the mulch to provide a nitrogen source for decomposition mulching is good so mulch like you mean it and grow organic for life.