Mulch your garden paths

Why You Should Mulch Your Garden Paths

You have a great vegetable garden, but what you should do about your paths? Should you mulch your garden paths, or leave them covered in grass or some other vegetation? Picking the right approach can help your garden become more productive. Keep reading to get started.

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I often see pictures or videos of vegetable gardens with freshly-mowed grass paths. This image of nice raised garden beds with short, mowed grass paths is very common. But it turns out this is not actually the best approach to dealing with paths in your garden.

The best option is to mulch your garden paths.

There are several different types of mulch you could use, but the most common ones are:

  1. Fall leaves
  2. Wood chips
  3. Straw or Hay

Each has their own general pros and cons, but the main thing is to use the type that is most readily available in your area. If you can get the mulch from your own property, then that’s likely your best option.

Wild Tip:

Straw or hay may have been sprayed with harmful chemicals that could hurt your garden. Be careful where you get yours from, and if possible, make sure it’s from an organic source. You can read more about this in a great article over on Tenth Acre Farm about the dangers of herbicide in cow manure but also straw and hay.

Let’s dive into why you should mulch your garden paths, but before we do, make sure to grab your free and easy-to-print cheat-sheet all about using mulch and which type is best for your garden.

The Benefits of Mulching Your Garden Paths

Beneficial fungi are a benefit of mulching your garden paths

Here are fungi growing out of one of my paths and a log that marks the edge of it. Fungi bring a lot of benefits, and everyone who wants to cultivate abundance should take steps to encourage them!

So why should you mulch your garden paths? Why not just let grass or other plants grow there? One simple benefit of mulching your garden paths is that it will save you time and energy later on.

The more grass you have, the more you’ll need to mow that grass. While an eco-lawn is a great option for an environmentally friendly lawn, it’s still best not to have a huge lawn.

Grass will also consume nutrients and water. Plus, the grass may spread into your garden beds if they’re not raised.

All in all, grass causes more work, so it’s not the best option for your garden paths. Luckily, mulching your garden paths not only saves you time, but it will also benefit your garden.

Mulch, like wood chips, are fantastic at supporting beneficial fungi. These fungi will not only break the mulch down into soil, they will also help spread water and nutrients throughout your garden.

The fungi are acting as an extension of the roots of your vegetables!

And furthermore, all the organic content that mulch adds to your soil will further increase the water-holding capacity of the soil, making more moisture available to your plants when they need it.

But what about slugs or snails? Some people worry about using mulch because they think it will invite these unhelpful critters.

Well, I live in western Washington, which has a ton of slugs because we get a fair bit of rain here. But what I’ve noticed is that the slugs love to hide out in the grassy areas. The less grass I have, the less slugs I have.

While it’s true that slugs and snails will hang out in mulch, so will their predators. From ground beetles and centipedes to garter snakes, there are all sorts of predators that love mulch and will help keep pest numbers down.

As I have eliminated grass and replaced it with mulch, I’ve seen a decrease in slugs and an uptick in the predators that eat them.

How to Get Started with Mulch

Mulch your garden paths with wood chips or other types of mulch

I use wood chips and fall leaves for most of my mulching. These 2 sources of mulch are easy for me to find here. But out in the country you might have more luck with spoiled hay or straw. If you let it sit long enough, the risk of harmful chemicals goes down, but you should still check to make sure it has not been sprayed before you use it.

The first step to get started with mulch is to find a source that is readily available in your area. That may be wood chips, straw, fall leaves, or even sawdust. You can use all of these materials to mulch your garden paths.

Once you have the mulch, you’ll need to get rid of the existing vegetation, like grass. The best way to do this is with sheet-mulching. You can check out my blog post, “How to Get Started with Sheet Mulching,” to learn more.

Just make sure you lay the mulch on thick. As you walk on the paths, the mulch will compress, and you’ll probably have to top up your garden paths every few years. This will especially be true once your soil life really gets going, since the material in the mulch will break down faster.

After that, just enjoy your relatively low-maintenance garden paths. Soon, you’ll see robins or other birds looking for critters in your paths, and you’ll likely see little mushrooms popping up after the rains fall.

You could even inoculate your paths with edible mushrooms and get a brand new harvest!


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Daron

Daron is a restoration ecologist, lifelong gardener, and founder of Growing with Nature. He created this site to help people enjoy wildlife, grow food, and help heal our living world. He has managed the restoration program for a local non-profit, and he’s applying principles of restoration and permaculture to transform his property in western Washington to forests, wetlands, hedgerows, food forests, and permaculture gardens. He holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Water Resources. He loves sharing the joy of growing food with his two beautiful children.

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