One thing all gardeners and landscapers can agree on is that mulch is a great way to keep your plants looking beautiful and healthy.
Mulch helps your soil retain water by protecting it from the direct sun rays, allows for air movements, and provides nutrients that help the plants bloom and thrive.
However, what if you could also use mulch to repel bugs? Yes, I know most mulch types act as bug magnets, but certain mulches can help keep insects at bay.
So, what mulch is best for repelling bugs? Well, today, I’ll share with you why bugs are attracted to your mulch and what are the best types of bug-repelling mulch you can use.
Are you ready to start? Grab your gardening gloves, and let’s begin!
You might find an extra bug or two in your yard after laying out a bit of mulch, and it isn’t because you’re a lousy gardener or the mulch is itself.
These insects are simply seeking the excellent living conditions that mulch provides around the plants!
They’ll find warmth, moisture, and possibly even food from the decomposing fungi and plant matter within the mulch.
Luckily for us, though, there are certain types of mulch that are less attractive to bugs than others!
Now that you know why bugs seek out the mulch around your garden, it’s time to find out which type they’ll most likely stay away from.
I’ll also share with you the advantages and disadvantages of each type so that you can make an informed decision. The main bug-repelling mulches are:
For starters, there are two main types of mulch: organic and inorganic.
Organic mulch is essentially grass clippings, wood chips, and other biodegradable materials, while inorganic mulch is materials such as stones and plastics.
Now, while many gardeners vote for using organic mulch in their gardens, you shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss inorganic ones, such as plastic.
Plastic mulch offers the same benefits as organic mulch by preventing weed growth, insulating the soil, and helping the crop grow as early as possible.
However, because it doesn’t decompose or provide nutrients, it doesn’t really affect your plants’ health directly, but it doesn’t attract bugs either.
Plus, there are types of plastic mulches that are aluminum-coated or clear that reflect sunlight, which confuses the bugs and repels them.
As a result, they’re among the best mulches for keeping the bugs at bay. Sadly, though, plastic mulch has a few drawbacks.
For instance, it’s a petroleum-based product that’s not biodegradable, so it’s not good for the environment as it won’t ever decompose completely.
Also, if you have temperature-sensitive plants, then plastic mulch is a no-go, especially the black-colored one. It can retain too much heat, affecting your plant’s growth.
Another inorganic mulch that doesn’t attract bugs as much is rocks.
You’ll often find people debating about whether to use regular mulch vs. rocks in their garden, and I’m here to tell you it depends on your garden’s needs.
Rocks don’t provide any nutrients to your plants and don’t decompose, meaning that they won’t help the garden’s growth directly.
However, as there isn’t any food source in them, any bugs trying to hide there will soon leave in search of a better spot.
Also, rocks require almost no maintenance, and you won’t have to replace them with new ones.
Finally, using rocks as mulch is pretty inexpensive and offers many benefits, such as preventing weed growth and soil erosion in windy areas.
As for the disadvantages, using rock can heat your soil to the point where the plants are thirsty. So, this option isn’t the best if you live in a hot climate.
Moreover, rocks can shift the pH level of your soil close to an alkaline one, which isn’t beneficial to most plants, as they thrive in ranges of 6.5 to 7.5.
Whether you want to create a beautiful bed around your plants or help them bloom, cedar mulch can be your hero.
Cedar mulch is composed of shaving and clippings from cedar trees and has a natural reddish-brown color.
Many homeowners adore this mulch for its fantastic color and that you could also dye it black, red, or even yellow to match your style!
Furthermore, it’s incredible for your soil because it’s an organic mulch, meaning that as it decomposes, your garden will enjoy a nutrient-filled meal!
What’s more, it helps retain moisture and stabilize temperatures, ensuring the perfect environment for your plants to grow.
Regarding its insect-repelling abilities, bugs generally avoid it simply because of the natural oil found in the woods. This oil has a pungent smell which fends off most insects.
The downside of using this type of mulch is that it can repel beneficial insects and pollinators that could help your garden grow more.
Also, the smell isn’t only unattractive to bugs, but some humans find it unappealing too!
Just like cedar mulch, cypress mulch is shavings from cypress trees that you can use to decorate or create a natural barrier to help the soil.
Cypress shavings offer the same benefits as cedar mulch: protecting soil from erosion, water retention, and keeping the ground cool on the extra hot summer days.
Also, the natural oils and chemicals in cypress mulch, such as thujone, can deter as well as kill many insects that dare reside in your plant bed.
The main problem with cypress is that it’s so fibrous, absorbing a lot of water, which prevents it from getting to the soil and the plant itself!
Last but certainly not least, we have the cocoa bean shell mulch. This mulch isn’t from tree clippings or shavings, unlike the previous two options.
Instead, cocoa bean mulch comes from the cocoa bean after it’s been roasted. When used as mulch, the shell offers a unique dark-colored bed that contrasts beautifully with your garden.
Also, because it’s an organic material, it provides the soil with nutrients while protecting it from erosion and temperature simultaneously.
Regarding insects and bugs, this mulch emits a beautiful chocolate scent that only humans appreciate!
Creatures such as termites or slugs find the chocolatey scent terrible, which then deters them from making a home in your garden beds.
The main downside to using this mulch is that it can harm your pet! Animals like dogs who like to explore with their mouth can get seriously hurt if they consume such mulch.
So, if you’re considering this mulch, please ensure it’s in a spot your dog can’t reach.
Of course, after reading all about the numerous types of mulch and what they can offer you, it only makes sense to have a few questions in mind!
So, here are some of the most common ones and their answers:
The best mulch you could use to repel mosquitoes is cedar mulch.
As I mentioned earlier, this mulch contains an aromatic oil that’s unpleasant to most insects out there, including mosquitoes, flies, and ticks.
No, rubber mulch doesn’t attract bugs as it’s an inorganic mulch.
Also, if you’re wondering why this specific type of mulch wasn’t on the list, it’s because it’s a tad similar to other inorganic mulches.
It prevents weed growth, protects the soil, and requires almost zero maintenance. However, rubber mulch comes with far too many downsides to use without careful consideration.
For starters, it produces a pungent smell in extreme heat that can overpower any rose bed you have around!
Also, it’s not biodegradable and can damage the soil as it may contain zinc, aluminum, or chromium, which can seep into the plants. Finally, it’s highly flammable and difficult to put out!
In a way, yes. Ants are an essential part of your garden’s ecosystem as they disperse seeds and turn dead insects into fertilizers for your soil.
However, when you add mulch to the top of the soil, you add another layer full of warmth, water, and, if it’s organic, food!
Hence, you’ll find yourself dealing with more ants than usual as they flock to live in the mulch.
Sadly for you, yes, mulch does attract roaches. This is mainly because mulch retains moisture, which cockroaches prefer—furthermore, certain species, like American cockroaches, like to feed on decaying wood.
As a result, organic mulch, like pine straw and bark mulch, can attract roaches to your area.
I must point out, though, that cypress and cedar mulch, while essentially wood, don’t attract roaches but repel them from your area.
Yes, mulch can attract flies to your garden, such as vinegar flies and march flies. These little guys are mostly there for the moisture and nutrient-rich environment.
However, you can minimize their existence by using inorganic mulch and ensuring the area around your garden bed is clean.
So, are you still wondering what mulch is best for repelling bugs? Well, let me quickly recap the best ones for you!
On the inorganic list, you have plastic and rocks. These two offer the same benefits as organic mulch, minus the beneficial nutrients.
There’s also rubber mulch, but I wouldn’t really recommend it. As for organic mulch, you can use cedar or cypress wood mulch to help your garden bloom and prevent bugs.
There’s also cocoa bean shell mulch, which is great for repelling bugs but isn’t the best option if you have pets roaming your yard.
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.