In Florida there are two highly popular types of mulch: Cypress mulch and Pine Bark mulch.
AND oak leaves are environmentally friendly.
Why Kill a Tree to Grow a Flower?
From the Florida Native Plant Society: Almost all of Florida's old-growth cypress forests are gone now. They were clear-cut for lumber decades ago. Most of the cypress stands we see today are relatively young trees. Cypress mulch used to be produced mainly as a by-product of lumber operations, but the increasing demand for mulch has led to the use of whole trees - whole forests-- for nothing but mulch. The old-growth cypress harvested prior to the 1950's had a reputation for being rot and termite resisitant. But those trees have all been taken except for the few saved in our nature preserves. It takes hundreds of years for a cypress tree to grow the heartwood that used to have those properties. The young cypress that are harvested today are not decay or pest resisitant and do not make superior mulch .
Hearing quite a bit recently about coconut fiber mulch (or coir) made me want to give it a try. It is touted for its high water absorption and retention capacity... and get this... the #1 reason ... it is reported to repel snails! Reason enough for me to give it a whirl.
Water it down in a container. I used my trusty wheelbarrow. Leave it alone to soak up the water while you do some gardening.
It might have to be broken apart a bit during the soaking time as it comes highly compressed. In a short 20 minutes or so later you'll have a wheelbarrow full of mulch to easily spread.
I had enough to cover the external edging of the entire veggie garden where flowers are planted. I waited until the flowers were good and established before mulching ... approximately three weeks after planting.
(Not saying this is an entirely comprehensive list)
Grass Clippings ~~ personally I don't use them often. They can mat and mildew if too thick. I like to add them to the mulch pile and let them break down first.
Pine needles ~~ Pine needles acidify the soil slightly which helps some food crops and is useful around delicate flowers.
Newspaper, black plastic, other garden fabrics ~~ I've used newspaper layered under oak leaves which is working well for my tomatoes this year. Be sure to leave a large opening around the base of the plants for water absorption. I am not a fan of plastics or fabrics... but that's just me. It is recommended by some sources.
Pine Bark ~~ Not a fan here although I do like its appearance better than cypress mulch. It is used in large scale in this area. Pine bark is a by-product of the timber industry so it trees are not being harvested solely for mulch. Very slow to decay... it is very effective in weed and seedling control.
Melaleuca Mulch ~~ Is an invasive non-native tree that has taken over 500,000 acres of the Florida Everglades. Turning this tree into mulch helps rid the state of this terrible pest plant. It is more expensive than cypress (I'm thinking this has to do with demand). It is reportedly extremely long-lasting and termite-resistant. It is not easily found either at the big box stores or at local nurseries. Lack of knowledge is my guess.
A few more alternatives I can think of at the moment ~~ Pine Straw, Eucalyptus Mulch, Peat Moss, Straw, Hay... none of which I have made use of in my garden.
Here's My Question For YOU?
Last year I didn't mulch my vegetable garden. Can you believe it? Call me crazy. The reason: I wasn't confident about what to put next to my precious vegetables. It was intensively planted so I think that might have saved me. The weeds were not horrible but I was a slave to watering it almost always twice daily. The upside: I never had to guess when it needed to be watered. I could watch it dry out before my very eyes.