Mulch and ground covers are a very important part of your landscape. It can completely alter the appearance of your garden beds and landscaped areas. By covering the soil with another material, you will prevent weed growth and bring more attention to the beautiful plants you have worked so hard to grow. The material you use to cover the soil is up to you, and only you can decide which is best for your specific need! Never underestimate the importance of this final step when completing a landscaped bed, the finishing touches sometimes make the final produce shine the best!
When deciding what type of mulch and ground cover you would like to use you need to consider the following variables. Money, upkeep, appearance and ease of use all will need to be considered. The cheapest materials will often not appear the best, and will require more upkeep. If you spend more money, the job will often be more permanent and the garden bed will appear more finished. I’ll cover a few of the most common options when choosing your final mulch and ground cover.
The most easy and convenient method of covering the soil in your landscaped beds is to used bark mulch. You can place the bark mulch directly over the soil and the bark will eventually work its way into the soil and compost to enrich the soil’s nutrient level. Even though this method sounds simple, weeds will begin to grow in the bark as it composts down, so you will need to apply new bark mulch every 2-3 years. Apply 4-6 inches of bark mulch to assure you have an adequate layer of mulch.
The next method of covering the soil in your landscape is to use rocks. While many people love the look of the rocks, there are a few downfalls. The main downfall to using rocks in your garden is that the rocks can very easily be displaced. If you have areas where you do not want the rock to move to, you will constantly find yourself picking rocks from that area. Other than that, rocks make a great ground cover in any landscaped area.
When using rocks, you should first cover the soil with some barrier material. They make special landscape barrier fabric that will allow moisture to reach the soil, but will inhibit weed growth. Simply lay this fabric down on the ground and cut out holes for your plants and then place the rock on top of the fabric.
Some gardeners choose to use plastic as a weed barrier in their landscape beds. This also works well, but you may have to water your plants more regularly since water cannot get through the plastic. You will also have to be careful to prevent any low spots where the rain water may puddle creating a home for some pesky insects, namely mosquitoes. Plastic does prevent weed growth exceptionally.
Rocks can be found in many types and colors. Lava rocks are commonly used and can be found in red, black, brown and even white. River rocks are also a beautiful choice as they are a rainbow of color from white to brown with reds and yellows in between. Rocks will give your landscaped bed a very finished and formal feeling. They will also last many years, with only requiring refills as you see a need.
Using rocks will be quite a bit more expensive at first that using bark mulch, but you will have a more finished job. Since you need to add bark mulch every few years, the cost will add up as the years go by, as the rocks will be permanent for many years. By using the weed barrier, you will also have an increased cost, but you will have much better weed control and spend less time pulling weeds from around your plants.
So now that you can compare the two main choices for landscape mulch and ground covers, you can decide which method is best for you. Whichever you choose, your garden bed will thank you as the moisture will be held in better and the weeds will be held out better!