Mulching is a great way to protect your plants, trees, and flowers from the harsh elements and to keep the soil moist. But sometimes it can be difficult to know whether or not you should mulch over existing plants.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of mulching over grass and weeds. We will also provide tips on how to get the best results for your specific situation!
What Is Mulch?
Mulch is a layer of material placed on the surface of soil. Its main purpose is to conserve moisture in the soil, but it also reduces evaporation, provides nutrients, and improves the overall health of your plants.
Mulch can be made from organic or inorganic materials. Some common organic mulches include wood chips, bark, leaves, and compost. Inorganic mulches include stones, gravel, and black plastic.
Now that we know what mulch is, let’s talk about whether or not you can put it over grass and weeds.
Can I Put Mulch Over Grass and Weeds?
You may have seen bags of mulch in your local store and thought to yourself, “I could really use some of that stuff!” But before you head to the checkout, you might be wondering – can I put mulch over grass and weeds?
The short answer is yes, you can, but there are potential consequences. Mulch will eventually kill the plants beneath it by blocking out sunlight.
However, it’s important to note that this process can take weeks or even months, depending on the thickness of the mulch layer and the health of the grass and weeds you’re covering.
There’s also the risk of encouraging the growth of fungal diseases while the grass and weeds decompose. So if you’re looking for a quick fix, mulching may not be the best way to go, but it is the easiest.
In addition, putting mulch over existing vegetation can cause problems down the road. When it comes time to remove the dead plants, you’ll end up having to dig through multiple layers of mulch, dead grass, and roots before finally being able to remove the plants themselves.
This extra work can be avoided by taking the time to remove existing vegetation before laying down mulch.
The Benefits of Using Mulch Over Existing Grass
Now that we’ve answered the question, “Can I put mulch over grass and weeds?” let’s talk about the benefits of using mulch in your garden.
Laying down mulch over existing grass and weeds will save you some time and energy by not having to dig up the grass before laying down the mulch.
Also, as the grass and weeds beneath the mulch die and decompose, they will contribute to adding nutrients into the soil, feeding whatever plants are left (if they don’t become overrun by fungus).
Mulch is an excellent way to conserve moisture in the soil. By blocking out sunlight, it prevents evaporation, which can help your plants stay hydrated during hot summer days.
Mulch also provides nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. This slow release of nutrients helps to feed your plants and improve their overall health.
In addition, mulch can help to prevent weed growth by blocking out light and preventing seeds from germinating.
So, if you’re thinking about adding mulch to your garden, you can rest assured that there are plenty of benefits to doing so. There are some downsides that you should be aware of though.
Downsides to Using Mulch Over Existing Grass and Weeds
As we’ve seen, there are plenty of benefits to using mulch in your garden. However, there are also some downsides that you should be aware of before making the decision to put mulch over existing grass and weeds.
In some cases, mulch can cause the soil to retain too much moisture. The excess moisture ends up suffocating the plants by way of root rot.
Root rot is a fungal disease that occurs in plants that have been overwatered. The fungus attacks the plant’s roots, causing them to rot and eventually die.
Although mulch is great for suppressing weeds, it can also have the same effect on your desired plants. If you put mulch down too early in the season, before your plants have had a chance to establish themselves, they may not be able to compete with the weeds for water and nutrients.
Dried organic mulches can be a fire risk, as dried organic materials are easily combustible. Mulch also has a tendency to blow away in high winds or wash away in heavy rains. This can leave your garden vulnerable to erosion and weed growth.
All things considered, there are pros and cons to using mulch in your garden. Weighing these factors will help you decide whether or not putting mulch over existing grass and weeds is the right choice for you.
Mulch can also become a breeding ground for pests such as millipedes, spiders, earwigs, ants, and even cockroaches. The loose organic material provides an ideal environment for these pests to thrive.
Is it Better to Put Mulch Over Soil Instead?
Now that we’ve looked at the pros and cons of using mulch over existing grass and weeds, you may be wondering if it’s better to put mulch over soil instead.
The answer to this question depends on a few factors. If you have healthy, nutrient-rich soil, there’s no need to add a layer of mulch.
The soil will already have everything your plants need to thrive, but mulch has a nice aesthetic quality that many homeowners love, so it won’t hurt to add a layer.
If you have poor quality soil, adding a layer of mulch can help improve its texture and fertility. Mulch can also help protect your plants from extreme weather conditions by insulating the roots and preventing evaporation.
Mulch is also beneficial in areas where there is a lot of foot traffic. The mulch will help protect the soil from being compacted by the weight of people walking on it.
As you can see, there are many benefits to putting mulch over soil. Whether or not you decide to do it in your own garden is up to you.
If you do choose to put mulch over soil, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Advantages to Adding Mulch Over Soil
The most obvious advantage to digging up that unwanted grass and bundle of weeds and laying mulch down, is that you won’t have to worry about fungal infections developing and spreading throughout your entire garden.
It’s one thing to deal with root rot in a single potted plant, as it’s isolated to one pot. But it’s an entirely different beast to slow the spread of fungus throughout an entire garden.
You can’t see it with the naked eye, but everything is connected, and fungus spreads faster than wildfire.
Another advantage to adding mulch over bare soil is that it adds nutrients directly to the soil, instead of being separated by a layer of old grass and weeds.
A third advantage to digging up unwanted vegetation before laying down mulch is the peace of mind you’ll have knowing that you didn’t cut corners, and that your garden has a nice healthy future to look forward to.
Disadvantages to Adding Mulch Directly Over Soil
The biggest disadvantage to adding mulch directly over soil is the work you’ll have to do to prepare the soil before laying the mulch down. This includes removing all the existing vegetation, which can be a lot of work depending on the size of your garden.
In some cases, it might be more effective to use heavy machinery such as a sod cutter, which can be expensive to rent. But it’s better than spending an entire day or two digging up grass roots by hand.
Another disadvantage to adding mulch directly over soil is that it can smother existing plants and prevent new ones from taking root.
If you have a lot of existing plants that you want to keep, it’s best to lay down a layer of newspapers or cardboard first, and then top it off with mulch. This will give the plants something to grow through while still suppressing weeds and grass.
It’s also important to note that if you live in an area with high rainfall, adding a layer of mulch over bare soil can result in erosion. The mulch will act like a sponge and soak up all the water, which can then lead to bare patches of soil being washed away.
To prevent this from happening, make sure to lay down a layer of cardboard or newspapers first, and then top it off with mulch.
As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages to adding mulch directly over soil. It’s important to weigh all your options before deciding what’s best for your garden.
Does Organic or Inorganic Mulch Make a Difference?
There are two main types of mulch: organic and inorganic.
Organic mulch is made from plant materials that will eventually break down and add nutrients to the soil, such as wood chips, bark, leaves, and compost.
This type of mulch is great for plants because it helps improve soil structure and fertility as it breaks down. It also provides essential nutrients that plants need to grow.
Inorganic mulch is made from materials that will not break down over time, such as plastic, stones, or rubber. Unlike organic mulch, inorganic mulch does not break down or provide any nutritional value to the soil.
However, it can still be effective in suppressing weeds and controlling erosion.
So Which Type of Mulch Should You Use?
It really depends on your personal preference and what you’re looking to get out of it. If you want something that will last longer and don’t mind spending a little extra money, then inorganic mulch might be a better option for you.
However, if you’re looking for something that will naturally contribute to the health of your garden, organic mulch might be the way to go.
How to Remove Grass and Weeds Before Mulching
Removing grass before mulching is a simple process, but each step is important to ensure the health and longevity of your garden.
The first step in preparing your garden for mulch is to mow the grass—yes, mow the grass. Set your mower to its lowest setting, and mow the area you are about to remove. This will make the removal process a little bit easier.
The next step will be to mark out the area you plan to lay mulch down on. To do this, use a spade or garden fork to loosen the soil around the perimeter of the area. This will make it easier to remove grass and weeds later on.
Once your area is marked, water the area thoroughly. This will help to loosen the soil and make the grass easier to work with.
Next, use a hoe, weeding tool, or shovel to remove any existing vegetation from the area. Be sure to get all the roots so they don’t regrow.
If you have a lot of vegetation to remove, you might want to consider renting a sod cutter, or getting some help—depending on the size of the area you’re clearing. This will make the job a lot easier and quicker.
Once all the vegetation has been removed, it may be beneficial to go through with a gardening hoe and turn the soil. Then use a rake to level out the area and break up any large clumps of soil. Then, it’s time to lay down your mulch!
Some gardeners prefer to lay down a layer of newspaper before adding mulch. This can help prevent weeds from growing through the mulch in the future.
To do this, simply layer newspapers like shingles across the entire surface of the area to be mulched, then lightly water it so that it forms to the shape of the ground. Finally, add mulch about two to three inches thick.
To plant more plants in the future, simply dig a hole at least twice the diameter of the plant’s root ball, plant, cover, and water.
Adding mulch to your garden can be a great way to suppress weeds, control erosion, and add nutrients to the soil. However, it’s important to prepare your garden properly before adding mulch.
Be sure to remove all grass and weeds, turn the soil, and level out the area before adding mulch. You may also want to consider layering newspapers underneath the mulch to prevent weeds from growing in the future.
With a little bit of preparation, you can have a healthy and beautiful garden in no time!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.