When and with what material available in Maryland do I mulch my raised bed?
Hi, I read on a gardening website that I should not mulch too early. Is this true? Should I wait a couple of weeks to mulch my raised bed that I just planted recently. Also, I’ve seen all the materials that are suggested by the extension to mulch with. But so far the only mulches I have found available fro purchases in my area are: bale straw, hardwood mulches/shredded bark mulches, and miracle gro garden mulch which says it’s an aged wood. I think I’ve heard that bale straw can have herbicides from previous use that can kill your plants or can have weed seeds in them, is any of this true? Are there any brands or types of wood mulch you would recommend or advice against using?
Montgomery County Maryland
Mulch is fine to put down now; the longer you wait, the only risks are that more weed seeds can germinate and that the soil will be exposed to drying breezes and sunlight promoting evaporation, at least until the plants mature and then shade the ground. Smaller raised bed gardens may fill-in faster, and when the plant's leafy canopies overshadow most of the soil, mulch becomes less essential. That said, you can use almost any organic material.
The risk of weed seed contamination for straw is a valid concern; herbicide contamination is less likely. Grass clippings, newspapers, or both used together (clippings on top of newspaper) would work. Shredded pine bark can also be used, though it would be best to keep un-broken-down pieces on the surface instead of tilling them in at the end of the season. You might also be able to use pine needle mulch, though we realize you didn't mention finding any.
Thank you, I think I will go with shredded pine bark then.