Spreading mulch on a regular basis is good for your garden, and also gives it a nice finished look. In this post, I’ll tell you about the benefits, answer all of your questions, and show you how to lay mulch step-by-step.
Spreading mulch is an easy garden maintenance task that comes with a lot of benefits. Understanding when, how, and what kind to spread can feel complicated to beginners though, and there is a wrong way to do it.
In this guide you’ll find all the information you need to choose the right mulch material for each of your gardens, plus how and when to spread it correctly.
Below I’ll show you my simple 4 step process, and essential tool list, so you can easily spread mulch in your garden the right way.
Table of Contents
Why Should I Mulch My Garden?
The main benefits of mulching a garden are weed and moisture control. Adding a thick layer over the top of the soil smothers existing weeds and keeps their seeds from germinating.
It also helps the soil stay cool, and slows evaporation so it can retain moisture better during the hot summer months.
Mulching benefits your plants as well because it adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. This helps to build a rich, fertile growing medium that they love.
What Kind Of Mulch Should I Use In My Garden?
There are lots of different kinds of mulch you can use in your garden. The exact type you choose depends on your preference, and the type of bed you’re going to use it in.
Organic materials, such as leaves, straw, or grass clippings, are readily available in some yards, and great for veggie or annual beds.
Hardwood mulches or wood chips, like cedar, pine, and bark, last longer and have a more finished look. They’re most commonly used in landscaping or perennial beds.
How Often Should You Replace Mulch?
How often you’ll need to replace mulch depends on the type you use. Lightweight organic materials break down much faster than hardwood does.
They will need to be replaced at least once per year, and sometimes more often if they decompose quickly.
Wood mulches need to be spread every 2-3 years. They do tend to fade though, so if it’s not time to replace it, you can just fluff it up using a rake or your hands to refresh the look.
When To Spread Mulch
Another common question I get is when to spread mulch in your garden. Spring and fall are both great times to do it.
I personally prefer doing it in the spring, so that it looks fresh all summer long. Otherwise, if I wait until fall, it’s covered with leaves and debris, and looks faded after the winter.
The best time for spring mulching is after the ground has thawed, but while it’s still moist.
I recommend waiting until the plants have started growing though. Otherwise, you could accidentally bury something that hasn’t popped up yet.
If you don’t get to it in the spring, don’t worry. You can do it anytime, summer through the fall.
How Deep Should Mulch Be Spread?
Mulch should be spread 2-4 inches deep. Anything less than 2 inches, and you won’t get the benefit of weed protection.
On the flip side, laying it more than 5 inches deep can prevent water from getting to the soil, and bury the base of plants.
How To Properly Lay Mulch
Believe it or not, there is a right and a wrong way to spread mulch. Doing it the wrong way is one of the biggest mistakes that new gardeners make.
If you have an area where there’s only soil (with no plants), then you don’t need to worry about right or wrong. Just disperse it in a nice, even layer.
But, if you’re putting it around a tree or garden plants, then proper mulching is very important.
The most common mistake people make is to pile it around the base of plants and trees. This is very bad for them.
Partially buried plants stems and tree trunks can end up having major issues with pests, disease, and rotting.
It’s important to keep the mulch away from the base of the plants while spreading it, so that there is plenty of air circulation around the stem.
Make sure that none of it is touching the stem. It’s easiest to do that if you use your hands to spread it out.
How To Spread Mulch Step-By-Step
It’s best to spread mulch when the soil is damp rather than dry, and it’s also easier to pull the weeds. So, if your garden is dry, water it well the night before.
- Garden fork (optional)
- Scoop shovel (optional)
- Wheelbarrow (optional)
- Bow rake (optional)
- Weeding tool (optional)
- Gloves (optional)
Here’s a quick list of the step-by-step instructions for how to lay mulch. The full details and tips are below.
- Remove established weeds
- Edge the garden beds
- Spread the mulch
- Water well afterward
Step 1: Remove established weeds – Don’t worry, you don’t need to remove every single tiny weed you see.
You just need to worry about removing the large ones, the smaller seedlings will be smothered.
Step 2: Edge the garden beds – In addition to removing weeds, it’s a good idea to edge your beds to remove any grass that’s creeping in before laying the mulch.
That will give your beds a nice clean look, and keep the grass from taking over later on. A weeding tool will make this job a snap!
Step 3: Spread the mulch – If there’s old mulch in the garden, you don’t need to remove it before adding more. Just put the fresh layer right over the top.
Use your hands to lay it around the base of the plants, making sure that none of it is piled around the stem. You can use a bow rake to spread it in larger areas and in between the plants.
Step 4: Water well afterward – This step is optional, but if the mulch is totally dry, then it’s a good idea to wet it down after you’re done spreading it.
This will weigh it down and help to keep it from blowing away in the wind. It will also ensure that the mulch comes in contact with the soil, so it can smother all those weeds.
That’s it, easy peasy. Now that you know when and how to spread mulch in your garden, you’ll be able to enjoy all of the benefits. Just be sure to freshen it regularly.
More Garden Care Posts
- Beginner’s Guide to Mulching Your Vegetable Garden
- How To Test Your Soil At Home Using A Soil Test Kit
- Choosing The Best Mulch For Vegetable Gardens
- When To Rake Your Lawn In The Spring
- How To Cut Grass Like A Pro Using Lawn Mowing Patterns & Techniques
Share your tips for spreading mulch in the comments section below.