I love a freshly mulched garden bed in the spring. While it can be a lot of work (we needed 11 yards to do all of the beds at our old 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 for the rest of the season.
1. Choose a good hardwood mulch ( like the one below ) 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. Rent the Right Equipment (if you know how to use it!)
I'm lucky to have a partner who has a great many skills - one of which is driving vehicles like larger tractors. While we did not have use for one on a regular basis on our property, a tractor like this one can really be of great use when moving a lot of mulch.
As I said previously, it took 11 yards of mulch to completely mulch the beds at our previous home. We tried having it all delivered at once and then moving it with wheel barrows. It took forever!
For several years, we would rent a trailer on weekends, pickup as much mulch as it could carry safely and then drive the truck and trailer around the house using it as a giant wheel barrow. This saved our backs, but meant several weekends of work since the mulch place closed at noon on Saturdays.
Finally, my partner said, let's rent a tractor, have all of the mulch delivered and try to do this in a day or two.
So one Saturday we did just that. I weeded and trimmed shrubs and he moved mulch. It took us 10 hours but it was finished in one day. If this is an option for you, the tractor rental was not that expensive and the time-saver was worth it.
But a word of caution - please be sure you know how to use a piece of equipment like this before renting one.
6. Get a good supervisor :-)
Our dog used to like to watch us work and supervise what we did. He's no longer with us, but his spirit guides us and thanks to him the beds look great every time!
What are your mulching plans this spring? Comment below and let us know!