If you want something that lowers your garden workload, looks nice, and keeps your plants healthy, consider mulching.
1. Clear First
In most cases, it is best to clear the site of old turf and weeds before laying mulch. This prevents the old weeds from resprouting and growing up through your mulch layer. If you are concerned about weed seeds still in the soil, you can lay down a sheet of landscape fabric before mulching over the top. Only use the fabric technique after clearing most of the old unwanted plant material.
2. Contain the Spread
Mulch can quickly wash out into unwanted areas, like the grass, with the help of rain runoff and wind. To contain the spread and keep your mulch in place, install some garden edging around the beds you will be mulching. You can use decorative edging, bricks, railroad ties, or utilitarian rubber edging strips. The goal is just to have a short barrier that holds the mulch in place.
3. Pull Back
Never allow mulch to rest against the base of a plant or against the trunk. The mulch holds moisture, which can cause rot problems on plant stems and trunks if installed incorrectly. Further, pests may sometimes live in the mulch and nibble on the bark if it is below the mulch level. After spreading mulch in a garden bed, pull it back so that there are about 3 inches of space between the mulch layer and the trunk.
4. Avoid the Mountain
There's no need to install a mountain of mulch around your trees. The mulch layer should be an even depth throughout, except for the shallow well around the plant's stem or trunk. A depth of about 3 inches works well in most areas. This is deep enough to smother weeds and conserve soil moisture. You can rake the mulch after placing it to ensure it is level and not creating a mountain around the plant.
5. Replenish Annually
The ideal mulch is typically made of organic materials, such as wood chips. Over the course of a year, the chips decompose and add some nutrients and structure to the soil. Once decomposed, though, weeds can begin invading the area again. For this reason, it is important to reapply mulch at least once a year. This maintains its depth and refreshes the appearance of your garden beds.
Contact a mulching service in your area if you are ready to order mulch for your landscaping.