This time of year, bark mulch is being thrown around like candy at a 4th of July parade. We've grown very accustomed to, and even expect, mulched gardens. The ideal is a weed free, mulched garden.
But there's another movement afoot that looks beyond bark mulch. In the latest edition of The Connecticut Gardener Magazine, Nancy DuBrule-Clemente reviews ways gardeners are using ground covers to create a weedless garden that's still attractive. This ecological approach is better for the plants, soil, ecosystem, and ultimately us.
By continually mulching every year, we're creating a perfect environment for weeds. Mulch fills in areas between plants. Weed seed blows in and as the mulch decays it creates a perfect germinating soil for weeds.
This year, try to transition mulched beds into ones that mimic nature. Plant closer together to leave less space for weeds and use perennial ground covers between flowers and shrubs. Ground covers, such as creeping phlox, perennial geranium, ajuga, evening primrose, and lamb's ears will cover the soil and prevent most weeds from growing.
Of course, you'll have to be smart about which ground covers you grow. Understanding the different plant growth types of your perennials and ground covers and match them properly is important. Plant aggressive spreaders, such as campanula, sweet woodruff and evening primrose, around established, tough perennials, such as daylilies and hosta or around shrubs. They won't choke these plants out. Use less aggressive perennials, such as lamium and creeping sedum, with delicate perennials.
By observing your plants you can find the right combinations, creating plant communities that thrive without worrying about weeding.