Any recomendations? Pea straw is expensive. How about shredded paper? Will this rot down quickly enough? It is for my veg bed and eventually I want to be able to dig it in. Why is pea straw so reccomended by so many?

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If you weed before the weeds have any seed you can just use the dead weeds as mulch around your plants. Paper would need a source of nitrogen to make it balanced. Paper and grass clippings could work well together..
Is the main reason for the mulch to conserve moisture?  Grass clippings are a very under used and under rated source of mulch.  I have a 'flat' pile which is wide enough for the grass clippings to dry out - when they have dried out I place them around plants after I have deep watered. I then periodically add more clippings, sometimes freshly mown clippings to the top of this. Towards the end of the season it can be completely dug in or, as I prefer, I simply cover with compost.  This kept the soil moist around, for example, my tomatoes last year when we had a drought in Northland.  The only problem is the birds - they get in there looking for worms and have a high old time flicking the stuff around.  As Hester as indicated, weeds can be placed on top of this as well and they decompose as well as helping to keep the soil moist.
I was going to suggest grass clippings also, I use the neighbours ones because we don't mow our lawn! you have to be careful that no sprays have been used and there can be weed seeds in it, but having that extra layer on the soil makes weeding easy, and you can keep overlaying it to smother them. Be careful not to pile them on too deep because they will heat up. as they break down they contribute nutrients. they are best around established plants, and also good around trees as long as they are kept away from the trunk so it doesn't rot.
Thanks for responses, albeit almost 2 years after I posted the question! :) Since I asked the question I have had a baby girl (Rose) and dont have the time I used to for gardening. (She is 3 and a half months.) Will bear in mind for future reference though.

The best mulch can be had for free, if you are willing to drive to Snells Beach (near Warkworth, north of Auckland).  After easterly storms, the beach there is covered in seagrass, which is fine like confetti.  I have never seen such amazing results in my life.  I pile it right up against my plants, and they love it.  They love the sand and salt and bits of shell that come with it.  The seagrass is fantastic for holding moisture and slowly releasing it into the soil.  It's a bit of a mission to get, but so worth it.  Maybe I should start stockpiling it here after storms and offering it up to Ooooby gardeners!

Hi, A really cheap and in my experience effective mulch is grass clippings from your lawn. I put a thin layer of these all around vegies and flowers and trees. The main thing is to make sure the clippings aren't touching the stems of the plants you wish to grow, and that they are in a thin layer. I find they suppress weeds and retain moisture really well. Good luck! Ingrid

I collect coffee grinds from our local cafe, they smell and look great and are ever so easy to dig in. No cost either!

The bags are really useful as tree guards and folded up with drainage holes snipped in the bottom find another life as planter bags. They also came in handy to keep hubby's cast on his foot dry when he takes a shower:)

I use old grass clippings ... there usually put into a pile and left for a couple of weeks till all the heat has gone from it and then I mulch with it around my plants .... Ive done this for the last 5-6 years and its been great

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