Inert Mulch Materials

By The Old House Web

Inert Mulch Materials

Asphalt Paper

Asphalt paper can be difficult to keep in place and can become unsightly. Tar is toxic to plants, so paper treated with tar should not be used as a mulch.

Crushed Stone, Gravel, Pebbles

Various types of stone may be used for the effects they create. The material may be colored to blend in with the features of the home, patio or landscape. Stones used near lawn areas may get into the grass where rotary mowers could throw them and cause injury or property damage. The stones may also be handy ammunition for vandals. Stone mulched areas are difficult to keep free of debris, such as leaves and stems.


Fiberglass is available as building insulation or in a woven or pressed mat. The insulation type is rather loose when dry, but it packs down when wet. When you handle the dry material, small pieces may break off and irritate the skin or eyes. The mats are preferable for mulch but must be fastened down to prevent their being pushed up by perennial weeds. Mats may be cut and placed around plants in the landscape or containers. They are effective in suppressing weeds.

Polyethylene Film (Black Plastic),Polyethylene-coated Paper Or Plastic Cloth

These black materials are popular as mulch not only in the garden but also around the home, where they are often used under stones, wood chips or other such materials, though organic mulches on top of plastic may float away during heavy rains. These materials are quite effective in preventing weed growth. (Clear or translucent materials applied over the soil surface will not suppress weed growth because light penetrates and undesirable plants will grow beneath the plastic.) Prepare the planting bed and apply fertilizer before applying plastic mulch. Future applications of fertilizers or herbicides will require your pulling the plastic up so you can distribute the chemicals evenly. Soil can be used to hold down the edges of the plastic and prevent the wind's blowing it away. Set plants in slits cut in the material with a knife. If you use strips wider than 3 feet, additional slits may be needed to permit water to enter the soil. The plastic cloth allows good moisture penetration. Rodents can become a problem, particularly if the plastic is laid in the fall. Poisoned baits offer the most effective method of control. These baits are available from garden centers and retail nurseries.

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