Weeding or Mulching?
(not a chicken or the egg kind of question)
Always take the time to give your garden beds the old weed and clean prior to mulching is not only very important but it makes mulching all the more satisfying. Now this is also to say that if there is a hedge or some pruning that needs to take place I would do it prior to mulching as well. It allows the cleanup up to be a little sloppier as you are burying the small refuse bits. It is also a horrible pain in the you know what to try and cleanup up tiny bits of cedar hedging that are dancing across the surface of your freshly mulched beds.
So once the pruning and hedging is done its time to attack all the weeds, right down to their roots so they don’t come back. Now, not all weeds are created equal, some are just plants in the wrong place, some are even edible, and some are just plain horrible to the point that I get nightmares about long morning glory roots seeping up out through the ground and slowly pulling me back down with them to my slow composting death.
Many people think that they can cover up the problem of weeds in their garden beds with cloth barriers or lots of mulch. Depending on the weeds, sometimes you can, but unfortunately not all species of weeds can just be pushed under the proverbial mulch carpet.
Morning glory and crab grass along with others tend to fester underneath clothe barriers and will slowly find their way out into the sunlight again. They will also easily just come up through the mulch loving every minute of it. Plus, now you have buried the problem below the sweet sweet mulch.
Some other smaller weeds you can bury and so their seeds don't get any light, then they will not germinate. But, if they poke through you have to dig down to the roots to get them out. No fun at all.
As for weeding tools, everyone has their favourites, the main thing is that you get all the roots out. Many of the worst weeds will continue to grow from a small piece of root left behind. Sometimes the plant will split at the breaking point thus creating more new leaders that will reach for new territory.
When dealing with very invasive species that have a foothold in the garden you must attack it in phases. You can very rarely get all of it at the same time. So you attack swiftly and thoroughly, then you wait a month, watering the area to promote growth, then you dig it out again. Repeat if necessary.
Now, for other species that have gone to seed and it's the middle of summer and you are just getting to the gardening, then you want to weed everything and mulch it really thick. At least 4 inches but I would recommend 5-6 inches remembering that it is going to settle.
So, what kind of mulch do we use?
If you have a well established relatively weed free garden with relatively healthy plants and soil then you are going to want to use more of a compost style mulch to bulk up the beds and add some nutrients. This kind of mulch is usually more broken down and not as “hot” as a fresher mulch that is still breaking down. Compost mulch is less effective at covering up weeds and seeds than a fresher mulch as it is easier for seeds to germinate in it.
Fresher and stinkier mulch is still breaking down more rapidly, usually steaming as you dig through the pile. Due to the heat and the fact that it isn’t “soil” yet, weed seeds find it hard to germinate in if any land on it post installation, and it also creates a seal on top as it settles which keeps light from reaching any seed down left down below.
You do not want to cultivate a mulched bed, you want to let it keep the weeds down and the light out as well as hold in moisture for the roots of the plants.
Remember not to bury your plants. Mulch up against trunks and branches can rot them out and slowly kill the plant.
If you have any questions or comments please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy weeding (and mulching)
The Edible Garden concept allows you to build food plants into your design ideas. You can utilize the functionality of having fresh food close by along with the different textures and colours that food plants can provide.