flower bed
Photo: Mark Lohman
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Shade Solution

Q: What's the best way to mulch a perennial bed?

A: Don't use bark nuggets. They look ugly, and plants in a heavily bark-mulched garden don't grow well; they just sit there because the microorganisms that are breaking down the bark are using all the available nitrogen.

The point of mulch is to shade the soil, which preserves moisture and keeps weed seeds from sprouting. So I just mulch plants with plants, placing them close enough together that they cover the ground. I cut down the recommended spacing by 25 percent. But this probably depends on your region. In a very moist climate, you might need to follow the recommended spacing. In my drier climate, with its short growing season, plants don't attain the sizes that the labels say. So to keep the soil covered, I need tighter spacing.
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