From smothering weeds to supplying the bed a finished look that showcases the appearance of the plants, mulch serves several purposes in a flower garden. Not all mulches are created equal, so choose a mulch that offers the garden the appearance you want while managing the most common problems in your flower bed.
Types of Mulch
Mulch falls into two main classes: organic and inorganic. For a flower garden, organic mulches, such as wood chips, straw, pine straw or leaf mould, work better than inorganic mulches, including rocks and gravel. Organic mulches decompose over the years, which helps enhance soil quality. Rocks work down into the soil, making it hard to dig, plant and tend the flowers. Rocks are far better suited for areas without plants or for rock gardens, while natural mulch is much better suited for perennial and yearly flower beds.
How you would like the bed to appear, along with what you want the mulch to perform, determine your choice. Long-lasting mulches, like bark chips and pine straw, provide an attractive cover which insulates the soil, suppresses weeds and retains soil moisture. Bark breaks down slowly but it is going to discolor as it weathers. Shorter survived leaf mold and compost conserve moisture and add nutrients, however they do not efficiently block weeds. This makes them much better suited to yearly mattresses which you replant often, or beds in which weeds are not a significant concern. Straw and paper mulches are not usually utilized in flower beds because they tend to look cluttered.
An inorganic underlayment of black plastic or landscape fabric can prevent almost all weed growth, but it’s only the right selection for perennial beds. Frequent or yearly replanting in flower beds damages the underlayment so that it loses its effectiveness. Landscape fabric works better than plastic as it allows air and water through. Lay the cloth on top of the bare soil before planting, burying the edges so the fabric doesn’t pull up and utilizing scenery staples to anchor it. A thin layer of bark or pine straw on top protects the underlayment and camouflages it from view.
Organic mulches, even long-lived types, like bark, require routine maintenance. When putting mulch, apply it in a two- to 3-inch-deep layer so it can efficiently block weed growth. Raking the mulch once it begins to fade helps tighten the shade, particularly with weathered wood mulches. Replenish the mulch layer each year to keep up the depth. Implement new mulch in spring or early summer after the soil has warmed. When applying mulch, pull it back so that it doesn’t rest directly against the foundation of the flowering plants.