It’s a good idea to pull weeds before mulching. If you apply a layer of mulch on top of the weeds, they often grow through. To give yourself the best chance of keeping weeds out of your garden beds, you should pull weeds by hand. Or you can use a garden tool such as a stand-up weeder or hoe to remove the weeds before mulching.
How To Remove Weeds Before Mulching
Before covering your garden beds with a layer of mulch, it’s best to weed. Here are the steps you can take to remove weeds and mulch correctly:
1. Move Old Mulch To Expose The Weeds
Removing weeds from mulch beds can be difficult. So the first step is to move the old layer of mulch out of the way. This helps you get close to the base of the weeds. This is important, because if you pull weeds halfway up their stems, they are prone to breaking.
An easy way to move the mulch is by using a garden rake. If you can, loosen the soil around the weed until you expose some of the roots. This will make it easier to pull weeds in the next step.
2. Pull The Weeds Out By Hand
First, put on a pair of garden gloves. Some weeds have rough and prickly stems that can cut your fingers if you are not careful. It’s a lot more comfortable to pull weeds with a tight grip if you’re wearing gloves.
Next, grip the weed as close to the roots as you can. Pull upwards rather than at an angle so you don’t break the weed and leave the roots behind. It’s important to remove all the roots as some weeds can regrow from pieces left in the soil.
3. Use A Weeding Tool
Small annual weeds are easy to pull from the ground. But it’s easier to remove weeds with deep roots by using a weeding tool.
Stand-up weeders make it easy to remove weeds with deep taproots, such as dandelions, without having to bend over while you work.
You can also use a shovel to dig around and under the roots, making it easier to lift the weeds out of the ground.
You can use a hoe to scrape young weeds with shallow root systems out of the soil.
4. Weed Prevention
You can prevent a lot of extra gardening work by planning ahead.
Before you apply the mulch, it’s a good idea to create an additional barrier to prevent weeds from growing. Here are some things you can try:
Putting down a layer of newspaper or cardboard on top of the soil helps to prevent weed seeds from germinating and sprouting.
You can also apply pre-emergent herbicide to the ground. This stops weed seeds from developing after germination, preventing them from growing through the topsoil.
5. Lay Down The Mulch
After you’ve removed the weeds from the area, you can apply a layer of mulch. You can use bark mulch, wood chips, hay, or straw. Apply the mulch in a 2-3 inches layer. A thick layer of mulch will prevent sunlight from reaching the ground, making it harder for weed seedlings to grow.
Try to keep the mulch layer as even as possible to prevent weeds from growing through the gaps. If you need to adjust the mulch, you can use a garden rake to even it out. Keep the mulch 2-3 inches away from plant stems to avoid rot.
6. Water The Mulch
Attach a sprayer nozzle to the end of your hose and spray the mulch with water. Watering helps the mulch to settle and makes patchy areas more visible. Then you can add more mulch to the gaps where weeds might grow through.
Why You should Remove Weeds Before Mulching
Removing weeds before you put down a layer of mulch reduces the chance that weeds will continue to grow through.
You can smother some weeds with a thick layer of mulch, especially if they are still seedlings. But well-established weeds may continue to grow through the mulch.
Some weeds, such as couch grass, can survive underneath a layer of mulch and spread across your flower beds through runners and rhizomes.
How Do You Kill Weeds Before Laying Mulch?
Pulling weeds by hand is one of the best ways of killing weeds before you lay mulch. But it’s not the only thing you can do. Using a herbicide is another common way of killing weeds in your yard. Use a systemic herbicide that kills weeds to the roots to prevent the weeds from growing back.
What Should I Put Down Before Mulching?
Before applying mulch, you can put down a layer of newspaper or cardboard. This helps suppress weed seedlings by denying them the sunlight needed for growth. Over time, newspaper and cardboard decompose, so they will need replacing regularly.
Can I Put Landscape Fabric Over Weeds?
You can put landscape fabric over the top of weeds. It will deny the weeds sunlight while still allowing moisture and air to reach the soil. But some weeds can grow through landscape fabric. And when they do, they can be hard to remove. So it’s a good idea to remove weeds before you put down landscape fabric.
How Deep Should Mulch Be To Prevent Weeds?
A 2-3 inch layer of mulch is deep enough to prevent most weed seedlings from developing. A thick layer of mulch prevents sunlight from reaching the soil, denying the seedlings the energy needed to grow through the mulch.