cocoa shell mulch

Gardens love mulch. And, cocoa mulch–from the shells of cocoa beans–well, that’s just an extra treat. Not only does cocoa shell mulch offer the same benefits as bark mulch—it keeps weeds at bay, protects plants and prevents water evaporation—but it also smells and looks amazing.

And, it’s green! Cocoa shells are a byproduct of processing cocoa beans. During processing, the cocoa bean separates from the shell (also known as the hull). The cocoa beans then go on to become all kinds of wonderful chocolatey things and the cocoa bean shells get packaged to use as mulch. Such a good reuse.

Give your garden a treat when you spread cocoa shell mulch around your plants. Here are seven reasons your garden will love cocoa mulch.

1. Repurposed material

Unlike mulch made from wood chips and shredded bark, spreading cocoa shell mulch across your garden reuses a product that would otherwise get discarded. (Sometimes wood chips and shredded bark are byproducts of other industries, but you have to check the package to make sure.) But, cocoa shell mulch only comes from the shells of cocoa beans used for other purposes.

2. Scrumptious smell

You can’t say this about any other mulch. Freshly applied cocoa smell mulch leaves your garden with the lingering smell of chocolate. It’s ah-mazing. You can especially smell the chocolatey scent after a good rain or when the sun hits your garden. The aroma should last for several weeks, if not longer.

3. Eye-catching look

Any mulch spruces up the look of a garden. It ties different areas together and you can even use mulch to create sections or separate spaces. Cocoa shell mulch has an especially glamorous look compared to most mulch. Its deep brown color resembles soil and sets off plants nicely. Plus, it won’t bleach out. The color only darkens with age.

4. Weeds be gone

Forget trying to keep up with the weeds in your garden. Those things are pesky! Cocoa shell mulch suppresses weeds from growing, so you don’t have to weed as often. After you water the mulch, the cocoa shells (which resemble flakes) bind together to form a loosely knit structure. This binding slows weeds from popping up. It won’t stop them completely though. So, layer on the mulch and save yourself the work.

5. Food for plants

Cocoa shell mulch will break down slowly over time. As it decomposes, the mulch will add nutrients, including protein and nitrogen, to the soil. Some mulch made from bark actually takes nitrogen out of the soil, but cocoa shell mulch gives it back! Such a friendly mulch. 

6. Reduces water loss

Lazy gardeners rejoice! Cocoa shell mulch helps your plants retain water, which means you’ll spend less time watering them. (And you’ll save on the water bill.) Besides that, cocoa shell mulch also insulates plants, which keeps them cool on hot days and warm on chilly ones.

7. Brings in the good critters

Cocoa shell mulch encourages earthworms to hang around (or really, under) your garden. You want these critters in your soil because they aerate the soil and release nutrients into it. Basically, they work as little natural fertilizers.

Cocoa shell mulch has many benefits for savvy gardeners, but a word of caution. Cocoa shells can be just as dangerous to pets as a chocolate bar. Make sure to fence off your garden to keep out curious cats and dogs. Or, watch them closely.

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image: Kirsten Hudson