Controlling weeds is one of the main reasons for applying mulch. The simple principle of denying potential weeds sunlight world to stop them from growing. When done properly, mulching is effective most of the time.
However, weeds being weeds, there is no stopping them from making an appearance especially, the perennial weeds. You could be in a good place thinking that with you mulched property, the weeds problem is all sorted out. Then some weeks later, seemingly from nowhere, weeds would start bursting through the mulch bed.
This can be depressing considering the amount of time and effort put into mulching a garden or lawn perfectly. But for veterans, this is normal since weeds always come back no matter our best efforts. The trick is to be prepared for when it happens. That is why knowing how to get rid of weeds in mulch beds should be a part of any serious weed control program in a garden or lawn.
If you are reading this because you are seeking solutions for the weeds sprouting in your mulch, keep on reading to find out everything there is to know about how to get rid of weeds in mulch beds.
How To Get Rid Of Weeds In Mulch Beds
Up to a point, mulch would stop weeds from growing by acting as a physical barrier. This stops sunlight from getting to and nourishing the weeds. To be effective, the mulched should be at least 3 inches thick.
The best mulch for controlling weeds is shredded bark or wood chippings. These easily deliver the required level of thickness and at the same time can’t be blown away by the wind. But like all organic mulch, decomposition takes place after a while albeit gradually. So the mulch has to be replaced some months down the line since decomposed or decomposition mulch isn’t effective in weed control.
That said, if, for some reason, weeds start to grow through mulch as it’s bound to happen after some time, your options for getting rid of them are limited to manually removing them or using herbicides.
How To Get Rid Of Weeds In Mulch Beds Manually
If you are vigilant and can spot the weeds before they become widespread, pulling them put with your hands is the easiest way to get rid of them. You might have to remove the mulch to get complete access to the weed if it is very entrenched in the soil.
In the worst-case scenario, for instance, if the mulch beds are overwhelmed with weeds, some hard decisions have to be taken. You might have to bite the bullet and remove the entire mulch bed to expose the weeds. Then get to work with your weeding implements like hoe or garden trowel and starting digging them up one by one making sure the root systems are not spared.
When you are done, the mulch would need to be replaced after applying pre-emergent herbicide to the soil to prevent new weeds from growing any time soon. This would, to a large extend, prevent annual or seasonal weeds from coming back to infest your mulch.
For the perennial weeds though, there is not much you can do to stop them growing again. Simply deal with them when they come back several months later.
It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to see this’ hard work especially if your property is fairly big. Even with other folks or family pitching in, it could still be heavy going before you are done.
Which takes us nicely for the best way to deal with fairly extensive weeds in mulch beds. This involves the use of herbicides, both natural and synthetic.
Getting Rid Of Weeds In Mulch Beds With Herbicides
As stated earlier, to get rid of the extensive proliferation of weeds in mulch beds, using the right herbicides is the best strategy. There are several natural herbicides such as vinegar and synthetic compounds that could be used to do an excellent job.
Using Vinegar to get rid of weeds in mulch beds
Vinegar is the most famous natural herbicide. Other natural, homemade compounds could be used for the same purpose. Vinegar, though, is best because it is readily available and can be turned into an effective herbicide with ease.
The weeds-killing capabilities are due to the acetate (acetic acid) in the compound. The more concentrated it is with acetic acid, the deadlier it is to weeds.
The common vinegar found in your kitchen or the pantry is low on acetic acid. For it to be very effective, the herbicidal solution has to contain salt and dishwashing soap. The soap helps to bind the vinegar solution to the weeds.
Simply add a cup of table salt and a tablespoon of soap to 1 gallon of household vinegar in a bucket. Stir it very well and pour the resultant solution into a spray bottle.
Next, spray the weeds on the mulch bed preferably on a sunny and dry day. Spraying on a dry, non-rainy day is vital because the herbicide takes a few days to work. Rain would wash it away making it less effective. You might want to check the weather forecast before you start.
All the weeds soaked with this solution will die after a few days. You could store any leftover vinegar herbicide in a plastic container until it is needed again. Make sure you label the container clearly.
A word of caution when using vinegar as an herbicide. It is a non-specific herbicide so it would kill any plant it comes into contact with. When spraying the weeds, do it carefully to avoid hitting plants you don’t want to get rid of. A good tip is to ensure the spray bottle is close to the weeds before you start spraying. This is to prevent wind from dispersing the solution to other plants.
Also, note that you might have to re-apply the vinegar after a few weeks to get the desired results. Again, like all weed-killers, this doesn’t have a long-term effect on perennial weeds. But it would definitely get rid of young weeds especially annual weeds.
Using post-emergent herbicides to get rid of weeds in mulch beds
Using the right post-emergent herbicide is the most effective weed-killing strategy in mulch beds. These herbicides only work on weeds that have grown above the ground as opposed to pre-emergent herbicides that target weeds before they sprout.
There are different types of post emergent herbicides with some of them specific to some weeds (selective herbicides) while others don’t discriminate when killing plants (non-selective herbicides).
Whether you use selective or non-selective type would depend on the type of weeds and nature of the job. Since non-selective herbicides kill almost anything they touch, they are the best option for clearing large beds with different kinds of weeds. The area to be treated should, naturally, be devoid of beneficial plants or vegetables.
You would use selective post-emergent herbicide if you know the type(s) of weed(s) growing in the mulch bed. Simply purchase the herbicide formulated to kill that particular weed.
If you don’t know anything about weed nomenclature, you could uproot a fee and take them with you to the nearest agric/farm supplies store and have them identify the plant and the best herbicide for them.
Post-emergent herbicides are further classified according to their modes of operation. These are:
Systemic post-emergent herbicides – When applied, they are absorbed into every part of the plant including the roots. It takes a few days or up to a week to work after application and kills all parts of the weed including the root system.
Most selective herbicides fall under this category.
Contact post emergent herbicides – These destroy or kill only the visible part of the weed above the ground. Though they are faster in taking effect, the untouched root system implies the weed would re-emerge after a few weeks.
Knowing all these, your best bet is to use selective post-emergent herbicides on the mulch beds.
However, decomposed mulch could be the major reason weeds are growing. Consider removing the mulch first before spraying the weed killer. You can then lay a new much bed sticking to the standard specification of about 3 inches thick.
When getting rid of weed in mulch beds, expectations have to be reined-in because no matter what is done, weeds can’t be completely eradicated. Birds, human activities, animals, and wind can transfer new weed seeds to the property anytime.
Basically, when done perfectly, one has about 6 months, give it take a couple of months, of weed-free mulch bed. Then the mulch starts decomposing exposing the beds to the dangers of new weeds.
The best-case scenario is linked to timing. Simply know the right time to remove the old mulch, then apply pre-emergent herbicides or use other weeds prevention measures before covering the soil with mulch. As in everything else, taking the best preventive measures is the best strategy for dealing with weeds in any mulch bed.