The Top Reasons Why You Should Mulch Garden Beds

Have you ever weeded the garden only to find more weeds sprouting in a week’s time? Or watered the garden and checked it 2 days later only to find that it’s totally dry again? This is why you need to mulch garden beds! Soil that is left exposed will dry out faster and is a magnet for all those weed seeds blowing around in the world!

What Is Mulch?

Mulch is a protective layer, ideal 2 – 3 inches deep, of (usually) organic material spread in an even layer over the soil after you have planted your landscape beds.  Organic means it came from a living source: pine needles and ground tree bark are the two most commonly used. Some people prefer stone or even rubber mulch which should not deteriorate and in theory will not need replenishing.

At Willow Ridge Garden Center and Landscaping (Oak Ridge, TN) we prefer bark mulch.  It looks neat because it can be applied smoothly. Bark mulch keeps moisture in the soil and deters weeds from germinating.  While protecting the soil, it still allows water to penetrate.  It will deteriorate within a year, but as it does it acts a bit like compost and “feeds” the soil.  We typically do not put a weed barrier/landscape fabric, down before mulching . It’s good for the plants to have this deteriorating mulch work into the soil (Think earthworms and healthy microbes at work).  If you have ground covering perennial plants in your landscape, they will do better without competition from landscape fabric as well.

When you mulch garden beds, it  prevents top soil erosion.  Exposed soil can run off during hard rains, especially on slopes.  Besides creating unsightly gully’s, run off removes top soil that took years to create.  It leaves you with hard-pan clay or rock that is almost impossible for plant roots to penetrate.

Vegetable gardens may also benefit from mulch during the growing season.  People often use straw, dry grass clippings, or partially rotten tree leaves (leaf mold) as mulch.  These all add nutrient value to the soil as they deteriorate, plus keep soil from drying out and weeds from sprouting.

Mulch also helps to protect the root systems of your plants during cold weather.  So as you can see, mulch is necessary.  Not only does it help suppress weeds, control run off, conserve moisture, insulate root systems and enrich the soil…. it also looks great!

Watch this for some tips on edging your garden beds!