Applying mulch every spring makes sense on several levels. It helps enrich the soil and helps retain moisture during the dry summer months. But the main reason most of us mulch is weed control. We faithfully lay down a couple of inches of mulch and cross our fingers that we’ve won the battle. But most of us aren’t so lucky: weeds almost always find a way to pop up, even in the most beautifully mulched landscaping. Why are weeds so hard to tame, and what can you do to stop them? Here are a few tips:
Why Do Weeds Grow In Mulch?
We all know how tenacious weeds can be. They thrive on the very same things your garden does: sunlight, water, and nutrients in the soil. Weeds take pretty much any opportunity to grow and aren’t picky about where they take root. As plant-based mulch decomposes, it provides an attractive, nutrient-rich environment for weeds to take root.
We often find weed seeds in old or contaminated mulch. Seeds can also get distributed by birds or wind into new beds.
How Can I Prevent Weeds in My Mulch?
Here are a few strategies for preventing weeds from popping up in your mulch:
- Apply the right amount. Mulch’s primary role in weed prevention is blocking the sunlight they need to grow. To make this happen effectively, you need to make sure it’s thick enough: we recommend 1.5 to 2 inches. But don’t over-mulch or your plants won’t get the air they need.
- Weed first, then mulch. When you’re preparing your bed, move aside old mulch, pull any weeds and then apply a layer of fresh mulch.
- Treat the soil with a pre-emergent herbicide before mulching.
- In some cases, especially around trees and shrubs, you can also lay down landscape fabric before mulching. It lets air and water into the soil but blocks weeds from growing.
- Edging around your mulched beds can also help discourage stray seeds from winding up in your mulch.
What’s the Best Mulch to Prevent Weeds?
For flower beds and landscaping, we like a chipped or shredded bark mulch with a relatively coarse texture. It decomposes relatively slowly and doesn’t blow away so it can do its job and keep sunlight from reaching the soil. Inorganic mulch (like stones or gravel) does an excellent job of preventing weed growth. However, it doesn’t offer the soil-improving benefits of organic mulch.
How Can I Kill Weeds in Mulch?
If weeds start popping up in mulch, we want to tackle them before they can seed and spread. If you’re pulling weeds by hand, make sure you get the whole weed, including the root. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide is also an option. One approach is a commercial weed-killer like Roundup, which contains the chemical glyphosate. Some gardeners prefer a more natural approach, using a mixture of vinegar, salt, and dish soap to kill weeds as they grow.
For More Effective Mulching: Hire a Pro
As experienced gardeners know, fighting weeds is a never-ending battle. They seem to pop up no matter what you do. But there are proven strategies for preventing them, and mulch is one of the best tools available. Working with a professional for your landscaping needs, including mulch application, is the best way to make sure your weed control program works.
At Epling, our experienced team knows which type of mulch to use in different locations. We apply just the right amount for each job, both for weed control and curb appeal. We have herbicide use down to a science and know which kind to use, both before and after mulching. This spring, put the focus on spending time outdoors with family and let our pros at Epling take care of the weeds.