Wondering about how to kill weeds? Whether it’s weeds growing through flower gardens or amongst shrubs, weeds are unsightly and frustrating to deal with. These weeds are more than just an eyesore, they actually compete with your plants and flowers for nutrients in the soil. Sure, you can pull the weeds out by hand every couple of days throughout the summer, but there are better ways to combat this nuisance. Learn how to use mulch as a natural way to kill weeds, and discover the best ways to use it for this purpose.

Control Weeds the Natural Way

Weeds thrive in warm soil and an abundance of natural light. With this knowledge, you can use mulch as a natural barrier to prevent weed growth. In order to successfully use mulch to combat weed growth, you’ll want to spread a two to three inch layer of mulch. This is typically enough to stop most types of seeds from sprouting as blocking the sunlight will prevent the seedlings from maturing. 

When it comes to types of mulch, bark mulch works the best in preventing weeds from forming. Bark acts as a natural suppressant that prevents weed growth in two crucial ways. In addition to blocking sunlight from reaching the seedlings, a thick layer of mulch will prevent any seed spores from landing in the rich soil and sprouting. Using bark mulch as a natural form of weed control can reduce growth by up to 90 percent! Best of all, your existing plant life is free to enjoy the nutrient-rich soil all to themselves, not having to worry about competing with weeds.

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Benefits of Using Mulch

In addition to preventing weed growth, there are a number of benefits associated with using mulch in the garden.  

  • Helps retain soil moisture – having a consistent moisture level in your soil is instrumental when it comes to optimum plant growth. A consistent moisture level helps reduce plant stress, which allows it to better fight off diseases and insects. In addition, mulch will also help keep your soil cooler on hot days. Cooler soil temperatures help lengthen the amount of time it takes for plants to enter their dormant period. While some plants actually bloom better in these cooler conditions.
  • Provides food for the soil – natural, or organic mulch (as opposed to inorganic mulch material like rubber, glass, or plastic) breaks down over time, which in turn, adds organic material and nutrients directly to the soil. Microbes living in the soil will break down this material, which enriches the soil.
  • Prevents heaving – mulch is a great material to add to your garden floor in order to prevent what is known as heaving. This is especially helpful in the fall and winter months. When the moisture and water in the soil freezes overnight and then thaws during the day, the process can actually force plants to uproot and pop right out of the soil.

Use Mulch to Prevent Weeds

Thinking about how to kill weeds naturally? As previously mentioned, spread a layer of mulch over the floor of your garden, roughly two to three inches thick. And some mulch types work better than others, as there are different uses for different mulches. Things like small stones and pebbles can be considered as mulch. However, they won’t contribute to good soil health as there are no organic materials to break down.

Straw is a popular mulch material to use for vegetable gardens, but it typically comes with seeds already mixed in, which doesn’t exactly solve the problem. Grass clippings can also work, but they aren’t favorable as they tend to be an eyesore. This is why bark mulch is such a popular option. It offers a fresh, clean, and tidy look for your garden, complementing your existing plants and flowers.

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Different Types of Mulch

  • Chipped or shredded bark – this form of mulch won’t break down quickly, which means it won’t offer much to soil health, but at the same time you won’t have to replace it as quickly. Some popular wood choices for mulch include cypress, pine, and cedar.
  • Chopped leaves – if you have enough trees on your property you can use fallen leaves as mulch. It’s free and it’s regenerative. Run the leaves through a wood chipper or run over them with the lawn mower to chop them up. Chopped leaves work best in veggie gardens and perennial flower beds.
  • Straw – informal paths and vegetable gardens are best equipped for straw. Keep in mind it breaks down rather quickly.
  • Grass clippings – another free and abundant mulch option is grass clippings. Just make sure no pesticides or herbicides have been used on the clippings should you use them as mulch in organic gardens. One knock on grass clippings is that they break down rather quickly, and as a result, this process actually heats the soil up rather than cooling it down. 
  • Cocoa hulls – this is an expensive option when it comes to mulch types, but many enthusiasts look past the price as it provides a distinct look in the garden. The darker brown, earthy appearance makes it almost like there’s no mulch at all. That said, in humid and wet conditions they have been known to develop mold.
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How to Apply Mulch

There is a right and a wrong way to apply mulch. The most common mistake is that not enough mulch is used during the application process. We cannot stress the importance of a robust layer measuring between 2 and 3 inches. Less than this will allow too much light to penetrate and weeds will form. It’s also important to not push the mulch up against the plants.

Allow some breathing room around all plant life – at least an inch. Since organic mulch breaks down, you’ll want to apply a fresh inch of mulch every year to maintain a proper layer.

Contact Us

Mulch is the best weed barrier, but finding the right mulch material to kill weeds is the most important. Apart from that, just be sure to apply a layer between 2 and 3 inches thick and sit back and relax. For more information about how to stop weeds from growing or to learn more about our mulching services, call the experts at ISR Gardening.