Flax mulch, one of the brightest plant mulches for the garden

Flax mulch

Flax mulch is a by-product of cultivating flax, and it turns out to be an excellent mulch for all plants.

It is the perfect soil cover for flower beds, around trees, in garden boxes and in the vegetable patch.

Using flax mulch

  • Rake out the flax mulch to form a layer about 2 inches (5 cm) thick.
  • Then water to lock the mulch into place.

Advantages of flax mulch

Typically, this type of mulch has the same benefits as other plant mulches:

  • Helps plants settle in faster through avoiding erosion and soil compaction.
  • Saves on water and watering.
  • Adds organic matter as it decomposes into the ground.
  • Naturally weeds your garden beds for a long time.
  • Protects roots from winter freezing.

However, it also has a few very specific advantages that other plant mulch types don’t have:

  • Forms a protective crust that blocks evaporation and stays in place.
  • Neutral pH to avoid acidifying soil.
  • Just like ashes, flax mulch keeps slugs from coming close to plants.
  • Light color tricks thrips into thinking it’s a body of water, so they tend to not land nearby.
  • Stays light-colored for a long time, excellent for matching with dark contrasting plants and to lighten up shaded courtyards.

What is flax mulch made of?

Flax field harvested for strawThere are two types of flax mulch that are readily found on the market.

The first one is the chaff that comes off the seeds from the seed pods. This is the flax that is most effective against slugs and snails, since it has sharp edges. It’s a by-product of flax seed production. Seeds from the flax plant appear in many ancient and modern recipes, and as such, flax seeds are full of health benefits. Flax seeds are also pressed to extract an excellent natural wood preserver, flax oil. This type of flax mulch looks like husks of rice or wheat.

The second type of flax mulch comes from the stalks. Sometimes this is called flax shives. It’s actually similar to straw. This can either come from straw collected when harvesting the seed pods, but another common source is rejected straw material from flax grown for thatching or fiber. The appearance of this type of flax mulch resembles short one-inch strands, kind of like dried blades of grass.

Both types of flax mulch are very light-colored, and they’ll both help disorient thrips naturally – a great added benefit in the vegetable patch!

Why does flax mulch form a tight cover?

Just like cocoa mulch, flax has a special reaction when you wet it for the first time. Indeed, when you’ve finished spreading the flax mulch into a one or two-inch layer (3 to 5cm), it’s important to thoroughly soak it once. You’ll notice that the flax forms a tight, fibrous structure after drying. This structure resists wind while staying permeable. Also, weeds have a harder time breaking through this “crust”.

When first wet, cellulose fibers soak water up and swell, interlocking with neighboring strands. It creates a mat of strands that weave in and out of each other. As it dries, the strands contract and tighten the surface of the layer of mulch. It’s almost like a woven material! Water and air can still pass through very easily, but wind won’t displace it.

This makes flax mulch an excellent choice for seaside gardens and places that tend to be very windy.

Read also on mulching:

Smart tip about mulch

If you use these straw mulches, you’ll be doing a deed for the environment, enhancing your garden and enriching your soil!


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Flowers with flax mulch by Florentaise
Field of flax by Fablegros under Pixabay license