The answer depends on what your goals are for this mulch. Is it for weed suppression, retaining soil moisture, keeping roots cool, soil nutrition, improving soil tilth or preventing erosion? 2-4 inches of compost will nourish the soil but disappears in a year. Wood mulch breaks down more slowly so it doesn't need to be replenished annually. It won't rapidly improve soil nutrition but as it decays, it will replenish what is being used. Chopped leaves are often touted as soil gold; they break down fairly rapidly, nourishing the soil, and they are light and airy which allows air to penetrate the soil. Unchopped leaves tend to mat down, so along with inorganic mulches they actually slow water and air penetration. Why not use compost or chopped leaves as a top-dressing and cover with coarse wood mulch? Fine mulches, such as cocoa hulls, tend to repel water and slow down air penetration. Whether you use shredded wood or nuggets is a personal preference matter. The longest lasting wood mulch is bark; the downside is that a slower decay rate means less soil nourishment annually. The richest soils are found in river deltas and forest floors. Try to recreate the forest floor in your garden.
Answered on January 1, 2018
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