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Creating a new mulch bed

Posted by cjdoyle (My Page) on
Fri, May 28, 10 at 9:54

I've wanted to create a new, sizeable mulch bed in my back yard which consists of mostly clover and some grass. I overbought mulch for another area so I want to use it. I have access to a power tiller but not a sod cutter. Can I define the shape of the mulch bed and then till the soil to cut up the clover and existing grass?

I'm talking an area about 30 feet wide by 10 feet deep or so. Removing the existing stuff is not the hassle, getting rid of it is and I don't have too much space to let it stack up.

Will I just be fighting off clover and grass as it grows back up through the mulch or if I till it all over, will the mulch help smother it out?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

How much mulch do you have? How deep will it be when you spread it over this area?


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

I bought 5 yards and used just under half the pile. I'd say I have 2.5 to 3 yards left. I'll have plenty of mulch. I'm just wondering if tilling everything up is good enough or if I'm just creating a future nightmare if the clover and grass start growing back through.


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

If I did the math correctly, that amount of mulch will cover the new bed to a depth of 2 3/4 to 3 1/4 inches deep.

Is any of the grass Bermuda (or another type that spreads as Bermuda does)?


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

I don't think so. Mostly Kentucky blue, but even that is pretty thin. The lawn was not maintained when we bought the house so the back of the backyard is sparse grass but mostly weeds and clover.


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

If you have access to newspaper or cardboard, I'd lay them down over the area to be made into a bed, and then cover them with the mulch. Use 8 layers of newspaper at least, and make sure to overlap the edges. This will kill the grass and weeds underneath. You can plant the area by cutting holes in the paper and planting through. There may still be a few bits of clover and grass that get through, but they are easier to pull.


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

This may be a totally dumb question but - what is a 'mulch bed' and why would one want such a thing? It sounds like the mulch is the point of the thing and not whatever will go into it. I've always thought of mulch as a utilitarian thing that is there to support plant growth, not a feature in itself. But I've seen the term 'mulch bed' used on various GW forums and have never been sure why one would start the process there - i.e. a rose bed, a shrub bed, a perennial bed, a mixed border etc. have some intuitive meaning for me in that they provide a picture of what the landscape intent for the area is, but mulch bed...? You're planning a big, brown blob? It's probably just semantics/regional usage but it's one that always makes me shake my head in bewilderment :-)


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

If you don't have cardboard on hand, many groceries will let you have their empty boxes.

I've used newspaper, cardboard, and other paper in the bottom of new raised beds, and I strongly recommend wetting the paper down (once it's in place) so it doesn't blow away. On a windy day, even cardboard will blow away....

I also recommend that you weed-whack the lawn before covering it; that'll enable the paper to lie flatter. And using Roundup over the whole area (a week or two before covering it with paper) wouldn't hurt.

If you have any of the really nasty weeds -- wild onion/garlic, nut sedge, Carolina horse nettle, any of the greenbriar varieties which have rhizomes, etc. -- they may surprise you by growing through the paper and mulch. Perhaps dandelions as well -- they don't have a bulb, but their root is particularly tenacious. If the weeds in your yard include any of these nasties, I suggest using extra paper -- or better yet, cardboard.


My own experience in killing grass is a method which I doubt you're interested in. My lawn is a crazy mix of clover, Bermuda, and 7 or 8 different kinds of grass -- most of them undesirable -- besides various weeds and seedling Bradford pear, sour cherry, and other trees.

Twice over the winter I have laid out a new bed with black plastic pinned down with landscape staples. I leave it for about 8 weeks, then till. It's a very successful method if you don't mind black plastic in your yard for a couple of months (hey, it's a pretty shape: think of it as modern art), and if you have plenty of rocks or pavers to keep the plastic from tearing loose in a windstorm. [Some people use clear plastic rather than black. I have no idea if the type of plastic makes a difference, time-wise, or how long this might take during a warmer season.]


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

Thanks all. The mulch in the "mulchbed" is not the main focus, but until we can get our plants and decide exactly what goes where, it starts with the shape and the mulch. Perhaps it is regional. That's all I've heard it referred to around here.


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

It must be a regional thing. Around here the bed is shaped, the soil prepared, the plants planted, and then the mulch is added if it is used at all.


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

What colour is the mulch cjdoyle?


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

dark brown mulch. The reason I refer to a mulch bed, is because we don't have any plants for it yet, so it will start as mulch only for a week or two until we can get the plants to fill it up. we simply overbought. 5 yards of mulch where 2 would have done fine. Since this plan was in the queue anyway, we just bumped it up in priority due to the pile of mulch sitting in my driveway. :)

I just don't want to end up with a weedy mess of a bed.


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RE: Creating a new mulch bed

Layers of newspaper, thoroughly wet with the hose spray, then cover with mulch, will control the weeds for now.

To plant, scrape the mulch back, plant, then spread the mulch back over the dirt. Keep it a few inches away from the stems or trunks.


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