What Kind of Mulch is Best to Deter Bugs and Weeds?

best mulch to keep bugs away

Mulch is a vital part of your garden.

It helps the soil retain moisture, reduces erosion of the soil from the wind and rain.

Mulch also takes up space that otherwise might be occupied by weeds.

And when mulch decays, it provides valuable nutrients that help your plants grow.

But one misconception about mulch is that it attracts pests to your garden.

While mulch does provide cover for certain bugs to protect themselves, such as termites, it does not per say attract them to your garden.

It does provide moisture that helps bugs survive and too much mulch may provide protection for many bugs.

The good news is that there are certain natural materials such as wood that can repel bugs and keep them away from your garden.

If you want to reduce the chances of the mulch alone being the home to many different bugs, only apply a thin layer of two to three inches.

This will be enough to protect the soil and keep any infestation of bugs to a minimum.

What follows are the most common types of mulch available that can resist the insects…

Types of Mulch to Keep Bugs Away

Although there are different types of mulch, they can be broken down into two categories, organic and inorganic.

Organic mulch, as the name implies, comes from natural sources such as bark, grass, leaves, shells of nuts, and straw.

While inorganic mulch comes from products such as plastic, rubber, or other inert materials that do no harm to the soil and provide much needed protection.

Organic Mulches

As to which type of mulch is better at repelling unwanted bugs, organic mulch has components that improve the overall health of the soil.

This means that the mulch will improve the composition of the soil which boosts production of the good bacteria, fungi, and bugs that are helpful to your garden.

Keep in mind that there are insects which consume the bugs set on destroying your plants.

It is true that some organic mulches may attract unwanted bugs, such as earwigs for example.

You can mix the mulch with organic insecticides that will protect the plants while destroying such pests.

Some of the better types of organic mulch include the following.

a) Cedar & Cypress

One of the best natural repellents, cedar and cypress contain elements that repel unwanted pests, most notably the bugs that otherwise feast on your plants.

You can find cedar chips easily and they are most effective at repelling the following types of bugs.

  • Ants
  • Carpet Beetles
  • Cockroaches
  • Moths
  • Termites & More

In addition, they also last longer compared to most natural mulches.

This means that they will be protecting your garden for a long time.

It also helps that they provide valuable nutrients to the soil as the cedar and cypress decays.

Because the cedar will slowly lose its color over time, you can tell when a new batch is needed.

b) Straw

Straw, along with cocoa bean shells, are excellent for reducing the presence of unwanted insects from your garden.

The dreaded cucumber beetle does not like straw, especially when choosing a location to lay their eggs.

Placing straw in your garden for mulching purposes and around your garden forms a protective barrier from bugs like the cucumber beetles.

Plus, straw also protects against unwanted fungi and plant rot which can affect the healthy plants.

Cocoa bean shells are an interesting inclusion because the odor of the chocolate repels certain bugs such as termites and slugs.

However, if you have dogs then you should not use the shells as chocolate is poison to them.

Plus, you may find your young children eating the cocoa bean shells as well which is not a good thing.

Inorganic Mulches

Inorganic mulches serve their purpose as well, providing shelter and cover for the soil to prevent erosion from taking place.

a) Plastic

Most of this type of mulch consists of polyethylene which you often see as clear, black, or aluminum-coated sheets.

The most desired are the aluminum and clear type as they reflect the heat and help trap the moisture in the ground.

The reflective quality keeps the unwanted bugs away as the light coming from underneath confuses most bugs.

The downside to using plastic is that it only really works when the leaves from the garden plants fail to shade most of the soil.

If more than 60% of the soil is shaded, then the plastic mulch does not work.

Plus, if it does trap heat, such as the black mulch products, then it may burn the plants it is trying to protect.

b) Rubber & Stone

These inorganic mulch products are quite good at protecting the soil.

Their main benefit is that they are not consumable, so the bugs will not try to eat the mulch.

This means that they do not attract as many bugs compared to organic mulch.

And, rubber and stone mulch will last for a very long time as they are resilient to erosive forces.


How to Employ Mulch in Your Garden – for Keeping Insects Out

Now that you know the different types of mulch, here are a few tips on how to use it to keep unwanted insects out of your garden.

1- Buy What You Need:

You can calculate how much mulch is needed for your garden by doing a few calculations.

First, measure how many square feet is your garden by multiplying the width by the length.

If your garden is not rectangular or square such as an oval, then calculate it as if it were rectangular and reduce the total by a small amount.

2- Apply Thin Layers:

Once you get past two to three inches, adding more mulch will not only be less effective, you may be creating a home for certain unwanted pests such as termites.

Keep the layers to two to three inches when adding mulch.

This applies to both organic and inorganic mulch.

Be sure to remove the old layer of mulch first before applying a new layer.

Spread the mulch evenly and try to avoid any pockets of buildup that might provide the bugs a home.

3- Water Carefully:

Remember that the water you add to your garden which seeps under the mulch will not evaporate like on open ground.

Because the mulch traps the moisture, you will not need to water your garden as much.

An exception is if you use inorganic mulch such as plastic, stone, or rubber.

These inorganic elements will not retain as much water compared to organic ones.

Overwatering can cause far more issues such as making a home for bugs and killing your plants, so reduce the watering appropriately to help nourish your plants without adding too much.

You will need to water a little more when using inorganic materials for your mulch.

You may want to experiment at first to see how much water is needed.

4- Keep Away from Trees:

Mulch and trees generally do not get along.

While covering the soil does keep the grass down, it may also provide a home to termites which will feast on the wood.

5- Keep Away from Your Home:

You’ll want to keep the mulch away from your home, at least six inches if possible, but a foot or more if you can.

This is because even a thin layer of mulch may be enough for some bugs to find a home.

This is particularly true of termites who might find their way into your home.

By keeping the mulch some distance away, you create a safe zone that is difficult for the pests to cross.

The Conclusion

Choosing the right mulch in your garden will help repel unwanted bugs and protect your plants at the same time.

Just remember that there are different types of mulch that each have a different effect in your garden.

You will need to become familiar with the different types of mulch available.

Plus, following the above tips will help in placing and retaining the proper type and amount of mulch for your garden.

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