Weed control in new mulch

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Roger, Jun 29, 2005.

  1. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,940

    This may be a dumb post, as I don't frequent this section - I do my reading/posting in "Lawn Maintenance."

    My question concerns weed control in new mulch over beds that were not well cleaned out before mulching. Let me explain.

    I work solo, primarily doing mowing. Because of dry and hot days recently, lawns are going dormant and my mowing work is drying up (pun intended). I was mowing a large property on Monday, a regular customer for every Monday. The customer moved into a 14(?) year old house about 1 1/2 years ago, but has done nearly nothing on the outside. It is 1.8 acres, but most is turf. The front has a couple of large beds beside the front door, an island inside a circular drive and another bed on the side. They had been mulched at one time, but long before the present owners moved. The ground is clay, and is not hard as pavement. However, some weeds do grow (thistles, dandelions, etc). Last season, they took out a few weeds, but that is all the work for all year.

    A couple of weeks ago, I saw some weeding activity when I did the mowing. On Monday, much more weeding was done. In fact, all beds were gone through, but the weeding was nearly futile because of the very hard soil. While I was mowing, a dump truck arrives, loaded with 20 cu yds of shredded hardwood bark mulch.

    Now, bear in mind, this family has spent very, very little time outside tending to the yard in the past 18-20 months. With much arm waving, the woman finally decides she wants the driver to dump the load in two separate places. I could forsee a real problem -- 20 cu yds of mulch, and little know-how, tools, or manpower to spread it.

    Before I left the premises, after blowing off the driveway and walks, I left a note (she had left the property in her car), "... do you need some help to spread the mulch?" I knew my mowing schedule was going slack because of skips with the dry days. She did call yesterday morning, "Yes, any help would be appreciated."

    I finished my mowing and went to find her struggling with one of the piles. To her credit, she had pulled off perhap 3 cu yds into the nearest bed. She started the project with two spading forks and one short-handled edging shovel. No forks, no wheelbarrow, no .... A neighbor noticed her plight and brought a small wheelbarrow and a few shovels.

    She was putting mulch down very thick, 4" or so. And, that is what she wanted over all the beds ("... putting down a thick layer, the weeds won't grow." Ha!)

    The urgency of the matter to put down the mulch now is a big party scheduled for July 8. I've learned there is nothing like a party to get property owners to move on a project!

    I worked for 4.5 hours in the 90 degree, sun-drenched afternoon, with my own tools and wheelbarrow - got another 10-11 cu yds done. Today, I returned for another three hours to finish all 20 cu yds.

    But, my question is: "now what?" There are still weeds in the hard soil, under the dry mulch. Some day they will resume growing, right? When they begin to poke through the mulch, what is the best action? Should she spray them with a vegetation killer, eg. Roundup? Or, spray them with a weed killer? There is no landscape fabric involved in any of the beds.

    She was asking me about the situation, and I didn't have a good answer. I don't deal with these matters on a regular basis. I do some mulching work for my customers, but am not able to offer full service. Therefore, I do little bed maintenance work. However, she has invested in the mulch, and my time to help her get it spread. I fear that unless she has some specific plan to minimize the weeds in the near future, the beds will be again left to be a weed patch.

    Any comments are welcome. Or, if I haven't provided enough info, I will attempt to explain further.

    This is a very clear case of "biting off more than one can chew." In her mind, any idiot can spread mulch. She had done no calculation on how much mulch to order, "... 20 yds is probably not enough." I could tell from the truckload it was more than enough, even without measuring. I never spread it 4" thick, and even at that depth, only about 13 cu yds were needed. I made a new bed behind the house with a couple of more yards, and then stockpiled about 2 more. And, she was going to start the project with two spading forks! When I was finishing, the local tree removal contractor arrived to give her an estimate to remove three trees in the island bed -- yes, the bed that is just freshly mulched! Wow! First things first!
  2. sjj14

    sjj14 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 97

    the short answer is yes the weeds will most likely show up again. however with the dry conditions and heavy mulch that will cut down on them some. It will take a few weeks but when they start to show up round up or the like will work. just have to be careful when spraying in beds, could have drift to other plant material.
  3. Guthrie&Co

    Guthrie&Co LawnSite Senior Member
    from nc
    Messages: 784

    the thicker the mulch the better it is on the weed control. however i wouldnt go any more or less that 4 inches in a new install. you dont want to suficate the plants
  4. Holistic Landscapes

    Holistic Landscapes LawnSite Member
    Messages: 59

    A customer of mine recently put down just enough mulch to cover the dirt. She asked me yesterday as I was mowing another customers lawn what she can do about the weeds... The bed is against the lawn so I was like "hmmmmmm," ok... I"m gona treat the beds with a selective herbicide being careful not to spray the shrubbery around the mulch, after application lay the mulch. The weeds will die under the mulch and give her that long term control. I also added "preen" to her plan. Ya know the home owners pre emergent. Hey why not? It seemed to me to be the most profitable and best all around control available. I"m also dropping off one yard of black mulch and with a "wheelborrow," lol.... dress the beds... When you can't think of a plan sit back and think a minute... In this game I've found that there really is no "by the book" method of doing many misc services that might spring up. Although there also are many "by the book" activities. Like planting a tree.... Good luck hope this helped... OH WAIT ITS THE WEEKEND AND I"M STILL UP AT 6 40 am... I MUST BE A LANDSCAPER!!
  5. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,369

    The mulch should stop most weeds. One definite exception is nut grass which has to be sprayed with image or manage. Before putting down the mulch the use of pre-m(Preem) would have been a good idea. Outside of nut grass I would use round-up on anything that comes through and it will be fine.
  6. kemmer

    kemmer LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 608

    Heres my trick for beds with moderate weeds. like beds that are full of small maples saplings. I take newspaper and put it down, about one or two layers thick, wet it, then put mulch on top, about 2". It like a biodegradable landscape fabric.

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