I had a friend ask if she could use anything else but regular hardwood mulch to mulch her garden and I said Yes! Here are the few suggestions I gave her.....
grass clippings ( always make sure you use grass clippings that have not been sprayed with a chemical weed killer)
ground corn cobs and stalks ( you can place these in a chipper shredder)
partly finished compost
newspaper ( I do not use any that have color)
shredded paper (old mail through a paper shredder works great)
Spanish moss ( you can get this at a garden supply store)
pine needles (blue berries love them)
But..... what about black plastic?
I just don't like the look of black plastic but I have seen people roll it out and place dirt over the top and that looks pretty good.
One thing about black plastic it really heats up the soil to several degrees and that could make a big difference on your planting time.
I have been asked what you should use as mulch on onions and garlic? Grass clippings applied right after you plant should help with this problem. ****(always make sure you use grass clipping that have not been sprayed with any chemical weed killer)
I always recommend that if you use a natural mulch on your garden beds such as hay, grass clippings ect... remove these in the fall. I really think that helps prevent diseases to grow through the winter monthes...you can always plant and replace in the spring.