In my opinion there is nothing like a freshly mulched garden bed. While it can be a lot of work ( we need 11 yards to do all of the beds at our house ), I love the tidy look when we've finished. Besides the aesthetics, mulch provides a few more benefits. First, it can help suppress weeds which can cut down on your weeding chores. And the mulch will eventually break down and add nutrients to the soil.
Here are few tips to get the most out mulching your flower beds and make your gardening life easier.
1. Choose a good hardwood mulch ( like oak bark ) over less expensive options like pine bark.
Pine bark is light and can blow away easily. And the large chunks can take time to break down. Hardwoods provide a nice rich look and while they do break down, they can really add to the quality of your soil. NOTE: Based on where you live other options may be available or more desirable. Check with you local extension office for the best ones for the plants in your area.
2. Before you mulch, weed the area thoroughly and put down a good pre-emergent weed control product like Preen.
Pre-emergents work to suppress seed germination so they help to prevent weed seeds from germinating. NOTE: Don't do this if you are going to plant flower or vegetable seeds in this area. Preen can't distinguish from a weed seed and an intentionally planted seed!
3. Add nitrogen to the bed before or after you mulch. When the bacteria in the soil begin to break down the mulch, the process can deplete nitrogen from the soil. A soil test is the best way to determine how much to add but if you don't want to take the time, add per the package directions based on square footage.
4. To make mulching go faster, cover existing plants with nursery pots.
I keep a few around just for this task. By covering the plants, the plants you need to be less careful about throwing the mulch in a given area. The mulch will fall off of the pot. Then remove the pots and smooth out the mulch between the plants. This makes your mulching chores go faster and protect delicate plants.
5. Get a good supervisor :-)
Our dog likes to watch us work and supervises what we do. Thanks to him the beds look great every time!