Mulch is a material that gardeners spread over the soil to serve a variety of purposes. Mulch is often made from organic materials such as shredded bark, shredded leaves or straw, or it may consist of stones, rocks or even plastic. Mulch helps to protect plants, prevent weeds, conserve soil moisture, reduce erosion and adds a decorative look to gardens and flowerbeds. An additional benefit of organic mulch is that as it decomposes it enriches the soil.
Prepare to apply mulch to the flowerbed at the appropriate time according to the purpose of the mulch. If you are applying mulch in a flowerbed to control weeds and conserve soil moisture, apply the mulch when the soil is warm because applying mulch over cool soil may lead to decay of viable plants in the flowerbed. If you are applying mulch in a flowerbed to insulate plants from cold weather, apply mulch in late autumn before the extreme cold temperatures begin.
Choose your desired mulch and determine how much mulch you need to cover the flowerbed. For example, if your flowerbed is 15 feet by eight feet and you want to place three inches of mulch to the flowerbed, you will need 30 cubic feet of mulch. Mulch purchased at garden centers usually comes in three-cubic-foot bags.
Remove as many weeds as possible from the soil before laying down the mulch.
Lay down a layer of landscape fabric on top of the soil around the plants as an additional weed barrier. Either cut the landscape fabric into manageable pieces or lay the landscape fabric lightly over the flowerbed and cut out holes for the plants.
Wear gloves and carefully add the mulch to the soil around the plants if you are mulching to conserve moisture and control weeds. Keep the mulch approximately one inch away from the plants to reduce the possibility of disease from moisture. Continue adding the mulch until it is between two and three inches thick, for best results.
If you are mulching in autumn to protect plants, place straw or hay loosely over the plants to insulate and remove the mulch in the spring.