Mulching: How to do it and the benefits

Mulching: How to do it and the benefits
We live in a world where water conservation and management is so important. Equally as important is time management in our personal lives. Today we're highlighting how valuable the use of mulch in your garden can be to supporting the environment while saving you time for more important things.
In the spring many gardeners cultivate flower beds and add compost or other organic matter to help in maintaining good soil health and aeration of the soil for roots to easily grow and thrive. Unfortunately, what often happens after you disturb the soil is old weed seeds and grass seeds will start to grow to leave you to wonder how this is even possible. I had such good control of the weeds by the end of last season there is no way there should be any weeds at all! 
By bringing seeds from lower down in the garden nearer to the surface they receive more heat and water can allow very old seeds to germinate. In some cases, you may also cut through roots or rhizomes of dormant weeds and grasses which allow them to produce offshoots in the spring.  
Mulching How to do it and the benefits by Bylands Nurseries
This is where mulching can save the day. Adding mulching to the garden is a great way to save time and some of the physical work associated with gardening on a yearly basis. It is slightly more work upfront to apply the mulch but will reduce the overall watering and weeding for years to come. 
It will not only prevent most weeds from growing back it will also help maintain moisture in the soil zone lowering the amount of time it takes to water your garden. The mulch itself will actually maintain some moisture but it will also shade the root zone from the sun and prevent wind from surface drying the soil. 
Mulch is typically considered to be organic matter like bark, shredded paper, cardboard, straw, grass clipping and all have some pros and cons. Some are used just for over-wintering and some are for “the look” during the spring and summer. Bark mulch is the most widely used mulch in Canada and can be purchased either in different sized nuggets, shredded and also coloured or left natural. The larger the nugget the longer it will last but must be proportionate in size to the garden. Large nuggets in a small space can look too big and almost clumsy. Smaller nuggets may blow around more and in a large landscape even look lost. Shredded bark will hold together, or lock together better, preventing it from blowing away and stop weeds from growing the best but will physically break down faster than nuggets. 
Many gardeners use landscape fabric under mulch as well (there are different qualities so ask your local garden center what is right for you), to stop weeds from growing but if the bark is applied around 3 inches thick then it is usually enough to stop most of them from growing. 
Mulching How to do it and the benefits
Grasses like Quack grass in Western Canada can be difficult to stop no matter what you do. If seeds land on the surface they may start to grow, but these are easily pulled up and can usually be done with a coffee in one hand. A good tool to use is a hoe and a good practice is to walk the garden every couple of days rather than leave them for a month and now you have a big job on your hands. If using cedar bark or coloured bark, you can often freshen up the look by raking the bark and turning it over-exposing the side that was not faded by the sun.
People often ask a few questions like do I need to remove the mulch before I apply more? The answer is yes eventually. If you keep adding, you should remove some because it will get too high around the plants and their root zones like to be closer to the soil surface. The breaking down of the bark may also rob your plants of some nutrients so doing a soil test now and again may also be worth it so you can find out if you need to add any nutrients to the area. 
Mulching How to do it and the benefits
Another question is what do you do around annual flower beds? The simple answer is you can run the mulch close up or you can do container gardening either above ground or in larger sunken planters with the bottoms removed. Then all you have to maintain is the pots and they look clean in the winter as just a circle in the flower bed when plants are removed. If mulching existing beds with small plants, a great way to protect them when spreading the mulch is to put pots or containers over the already planted plants. If around low lying plants like junipers if one person with gloves can hold the plant up or use a hockey stick or something similar to gently lift the plant up and away from the soil giving you room to apply the mulch. When finished, sit back and enjoy your spare time!
Happy Gardening!

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Guest post by Rich - Bylands Account Representative

My personal garden is now 23 years old and most of the trees 25 years. shrubs, evergreens and perennial beds are all bordered with large sandstone boulders. Two reasons I have had to replant each year are: Shasta Daisy was a white German Shepherd and Georgia Peach is a caramel with white and black Shepherd, Husky something cross. My dogs are always named after plants.