Previously, I have used wood chips but this seems like something a small dog could choke on.
If you have issues with your dog eating mulch, look into a mulch that is not treated with manure. I have had this issue in the past with my own dog. They are attracted to it. Normal wood chips should not attract them to eating them and they should be fine.
Avoid at all costs cocoa hull mulch. It smells like chocolate (which dogs like) and can be very lethal to them.
You can also try a larger, chunkier wood mulch or a rubber or stone mulch. These don't break down well (or at all) but would be harder for a dog to eat.
Are leaves useful as a vegetable garden mulch?
Yes and no. While leaves make an excellent mulch for helping to protect plants over the winter, vegetables generally do better with a straw mulch, especially since they typically grow throughout spring and summer, when leaves are less likely to be readily available.
I am about to put down some new bark mulch. I left the leaves from trees in the yard on the beds over the winter. Can I simply put the bark mulch over the leaves, or do I need to clean out the leaves then place the mulch on the beds?
You can place the mulch right over the leaves. It is good for the soil if you do that.
I'm renting, so don't want to spend a fortune--don't know if I'll be here next year. But the weeds--esp. crab grass and dandelions thrive on the walkway below the retaining wall of my glamorous flower bed. I'd like a cheap and simple solution
You can lay down layers of newspaper and cover this with enough mulch to hide the newspaper. The newspaper will suppress the weeds and the mulch cover will make it look nice.
I have a 6 x 12 garden plot and want to know the best mulch for vegetables.
Good options for mulch in the veggie garden include shredded bark or straw.
After putting down newspaper and mulch, can you put in plants right away by digging through the mulch and cutting through the newspaper? Will the plants continue to thrive? If so, how big of a space do I need to open (in inches) around the plant?
Yes, you can plant right away. You only need a hole big enough to get the rootball through. The mulch and newspaper are porous, so will allow rain to seep through to the soil below, which means you only need to make a hole big enough to plant the plants.
I am putting down several inches of (cedar) mulch in my butterfly garden, as here in Dallas it gets up to 100 degrees F or more in August. I want to keep the moisture and protect the plants from the heat. Will this mulch prevent the self-seeding flowers from self-seeding? Or will the sprinkler system wash the seeds down into the mulch and allow them to sprout?
Self seeding flowers should still be able to sprout. The mulch breaks down over the course of the year and creates a good base for the seeds to grow in.