When it comes to mulching your flowerbeds to stop weeds, it all comes down to avoiding the 4 most common flowerbed mulching mistakes – all of which can lead to more weeds – and even more work trying to continually take care of them!
There is little doubt that a good layer of mulch can do wonders for keeping weeds to a minimum. But in addition to weed control, mulch plays a huge role in the health and vitality of the perennials and annuals that grow within your beds.
By covering the soil, mulch helps to hold valuable moisture deep in the soil, right where it is needed most near the roots of plants. In addition, it also helps to insulate the roots from both extremely cold and overly warm temperatures.
But the type of mulch used, along with when and how it placed down plays a huge factor in just how successful it can be. And that is exactly what today’s article is all about! With that in mind, here is a look at how to avoid four of the most common pitfalls when it comes to mulching your flowerbeds.
#1 Using Ultra Fine / Super-Shredded Mulch – The 4 Biggest Flowerbed Mulching Mistakes
There has been a big push in the landscaping industry over the last decade to produce mulch that is super fine. Often called triple shredded or ultra-fine shredded mulch, these mulches are not the best choice for flowerbeds.
Unfortunately, although they may look great when they first go down, ultra-fine mulches are incredibly poor at stopping and preventing weeds. Even worse, they are also quite ineffective for insulating the soil and retaining moisture for plants.
Super fine mulch is often closer to soil than it is true mulch. The product is made by continually passing the chosen material through a shredder. With each succeeding pass, the mulch becomes more finely ground.
Yes, it is easier to spread. And the soil-like “look” can be quite beautiful in flowerbeds. Well, that is, until the weeds take over in quick fashion. Ultra shredded mulch is so fine that weed seeds can actually germinate right in it!
That means weed seeds that blow in or are brought into your flowerbeds by animals and birds can sprout with ease. Super fine mulch also disintegrates into the soil in quick fashion. And unfortunately, that leads to the need for more and more mulch, which can get quite expensive.
Best Mulch Choices – The 4 Biggest Flowerbed Mulching Mistakes
The best mulch choice to use for flowerbeds are single or double shredded products. These still have enough structure to both block weeds and insulate the soil. As for types of mulch – hardwood and hardwood bark are at the top of the list. They do all of the above perfectly well, all while adding valuable nutrients to the soil as they slowly break down.
For years, we have used single shredded hardwood bark mulch from a local sawmill. Not only is it incredibly inexpensive, it does a great job of keeping our flowerbeds healthy and weed free. Best of all – it lasts a long time!
#2 Not Mulching Deep Enough – The 4 Biggest Flowerbed Mulching Mistakes
One thing is for certain, an inch or two of mulch in your flowerbeds is never enough to do the job. It’s not enough to keep weeds from finding a way to your soil. Nor is it thick enough to insulate plants or retain moisture.
To be truly effective, mulch needs to be placed at least four inches thick in beds. Six inches is even better! At that thickness, the mulch is hefty enough to be an excellent barrier for weed seeds. It also can protect the soil and keep it from drying out in the hot summer sun.
It may cost a bit more and take a bit more effort to place a thicker layer of mulch, but you will be rewarded with fewer weeds and far less weeding chores all summer.
As a final tip on this note, always try to fill your flowerbeds with more plants than mulch. The thicker your plant canopy is, the less chance there will be for weeds and weed seeds to find a home. And even better, it means you have far less space to mulch! See: 3 Simple Secrets To Weed Free Flowerbeds – Without Constant Weeding!
#3 Raking / Turning Your Mulch Over – The 4 Biggest Flowerbed Mulching Mistakes
Raking and turning the mulch over to “freshen” it up is one of the most common mulching mistakes of all. And can it ever lead to a vicious cycle of weeding and more weeding!
Although it may seem like a great way to spruce up your flowerbeds, existing mulch should never be disturbed. Mulch forms a protective barrier against weed seeds that find their way to your bed spaces. And as long as that barrier stays in place, the seeds cannot find the soil to sprout.
Unfortunately, when you rake or turn your mulch over, the seeds that were on top can quickly find a home below. Not only that, they then have a nice layer of mulch on top to help insulate and hold moisture to them – which just happens to be the perfect conditions needed for sprouting!
Never rake or turn existing mulch. Not in the early spring, or at any time throughout the season. If you are trying to freshen up the look of your beds, add a fresh, thin layer of mulch on top. This will keep the soil’s protective layer in tact, and keep weeds seeds from germinating.
#4 Not Mulching In The Fall – The 4 Biggest Flowerbed Mulching Mistakes
We saved the biggest and best most common mistake for last – not mulching your flowerbeds in the fall! Fall mulching is just as important as applying a fresh coat of mulch in the spring. In fact, it may even be more important.
By the time autumn arrives, most of the mulch in beds has started to break down. As it does, it opens the door for weed seeds to blow in from all over all through the late fall and winter months. And that means more weeds than ever sprouting up next spring!
But even more, a fresh, thick layer of mulch in the fall will help protect all of your perennials from the perils of winter. The constant thawing and freezing of the ground that winter brings can be hard on the roots of perennials.
But a good layer of mulch can help to keep soil temperatures more steady, and in the process, help plants survive the winter with ease.
So get out there this fall and mulch those beds. Here is to mulching your beds for success, and to weed-free and care free flowerbeds all season long! Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary.
Jim and Mary Competti have been writing gardening, DIY and recipe articles and books for over 15 years from their 46 acre Ohio farm. The two are frequent speakers on all things gardening and love to travel in their spare time.
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