Applying mulch to a flower bed can be both decorative and functional. You can purchase a wide variety of materials to do the job; there is a price range of mulch that can fit into every budget and even some that can be had for free or very low cost. Proper use of mulch will help you retain moisture, prevent weeds and add visual impact to your flower beds.
A visit to your local home and garden store, such as Home Depot, should provide you with a large variety of mulch, both organic and inorganic and many color choices. You can also lay down a weed control product in the form of mesh or plastic sheeting. Mulch can be obtained as wood chips, bark, moss, rubber, straw, grass clippings, leaves, gravel, lava rock, crushed stone and more. Some local recycling centers and city governments even offer free mulch to residents after they grind up trees or brush, like this one in Rio Rancho, NM that turns Christmas trees into mulch.
Tools and Techniques
Depending on your choice of mulch, you will need to have rubber gloves for handling the material and a rake or shovel to even out your mulch in the flower bed. Rake the soil a bit to loosen it. Lay down any weed barrier, and then simply lay out the mulch to cover the soil surrounding your plants. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends between 2-4 inches of cover depending on the material you use. Then water and enjoy your flowers.
Mistakes to Avoid
You should weed before laying down your mulch and your plants should already be planted. Consider the type of climate and weather you have when choosing mulch. It is very common in desert climates to see rock mulch; the high winds can blow away less heavy materials and the rocks reflect the heat, keeping the soil at a cooler temperature under the ground cover.
Also consider how water drains into your flower beds. If you have a downspout that pours into the bed, or a roof overhang without gutters, the excess of water could wash out mulch that consists of lighter materials. You should make sure your beds have good drainage.
Newspaper can be an effective and thrifty weed barrier. Not only is it readily available for a low cost, it is organic and will decompose and create compost as time goes on. Buying bagged mulch is easier to transport and can be carried more easily to the area you will be using it in and you can store any leftover mulch right in the bag.