Friday, July 11, 2014


'To mulch or not to mulch', that is not much of a question for most gardeners, including myself, and many blog posts have been written on the subject already, extolling its virtues to retain moisture and aid in the never-ending struggle with weeds.  Despite this I have not put down much in my own gardens to-date.
Why not? 
I have been too busy planning and planting.

I think of mulch as the icing on a cake, insofar as it should be the last thing I do once I am comfortable with the overall make up of my garden.  For example in my Sun and Monet Gardens which I created in the fall of 2012 there was simply too much movement of plants last summer as I refined my plans, and digging through mulch every time I made a switch would have made the whole process unbearably slow.  

In their second full summer however many areas of the garden are now feeling full, properly planned and ready for mulch.
Yet still I hold off.

I still need to add a layer of bulbs in most places now that all of the perennials are in place, and until I do the idea of digging through an additional layer of mulch this fall is simply too much, so I will hold off - for now.

While most people seem to agree that mulching is worth it, not everyone agrees. The other day my neighbour mentioned that he did not mulch because it did not actually hold back the weeds and while he is correct that it will not eliminate them completely, it certainly makes a difference as evidenced in the photo below.

On the right-hand side is an area that was thick with Creeping Bellflower that I covered with cardboard and mulch last year and as you can see some of these attractive but aggressive weeds are poking through, especially at the edges.  However when you compare it to the left-hand side, where no mulch was laid and every inch is green with weeds, the benefit becomes crystal clear.  

Over the course of the course of the summer, in areas where I will NOT be adding spring bulbs in the fall, I will be adding in a layer of mulch.

So while mulch is not a silver bullet in the war on weeds it is an important tool in the gardener's toolkit and I look forward to the help it will provide in keeping the weeds at bay. 

How about you, do you mulch extensively, strategically or not at all?



  1. I like to use mulch, as it makes the garden look finished. I prefer shredded non-pallet mulch because it breaks down better and contributes to the soil. It does help keep weeds down, but, as you've noted, not completely. Even when mulch is placed on top of landscape fabric, newspaper, or cardboard, I find that weeds still pop up in the mulch itself. They are much easier to pull up, though! In my vegetable garden I use about two inches of grass clippings as mulch, and find it immensely helpful in smothering weeds and keeping moisture in the soil.

    1. Thanks for the great response. I just may ask the people who cut our lawn to leave the grass clippings behind so I can use them in the garden!

  2. Derek, I use shredded wood mulch extensively. (I garden mainly perennial flowers). I have very few weeds and I don't water most of my perennials at all (except for after transplanting). The one weed that does seem to come through fairly easily is one that is relatively new to our area, which we call 'horsetail'. But anything else that comes through, is few are far between and easy to see through the mulch. I also use newspaper (ten pages is what the CBC's Ed Lawrence recommends and that works perfectly) under the mulch in larger spots. I like the mulch that is the colour of soil and it looks really natural (but ask if it's dyed and what it's dyed with).

    It's a bit of an output of money, but it is well worth it. When I want to plant or move something, I just brush the mulch away. I also keep a pile of it for filling in, as the mulch will eventually turn to compost.

    Once you have everything mostly where you want it, and decide it's time to mulch, I think you will be very happy with the results. (Don't forget that your garden is going to be an EVER-changing process and you'll always be moving things here and there....)

    When you do, let me know what you think! Have a great weekend.

    1. Diane, I am looking forward to getting to the mulching stage because watering and weeding are taking up so much of my time. I can tell you already that I am going to enjoy it for sure!