Make sure you are mulching the right way by following these 6 tips

Although mulch isn’t required for flowers and shrubs to grow and stay healthy, it has so many benefits that the work to spread it is well worth it. Even if you discount the beauty that mulch can add to landscaping, consider these practical reasons to use it:
• Impedes weed germination and growth
• Lessens fluctuations in soil temperature
• Keeps plants from drying out by holding moisture in the soil
• Keeps plant roots cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter
• Adds nutrition to the soil as it breaks down
Organic mulch will need to be replaced as it decomposes, but it’s a relatively small price to pay for the beauty and benefits it provides. Here are six steps to follow so you get the maximum advantages from your mulching efforts.
1. Choose material wisely
The mulch you use will depend on the climate, but your best options are shredded hardwood, wood chips and pine straw for both beauty and benefits. Some gardeners prefer grass clippings or composted manure, but keep in mind that they may contain weed seeds, the very thing you're trying to prevent!
2. Remove debris
The first step is to go through the bed and remove any twigs, leaves, dead plants or any trash that has blown in and accumulated over the winter.
3. Turn the old mulch
This step is often skipped, but it's much too important to disregard. Turn over old mulch with a tool such as a Garden Weasel, pictured below, or garden rake. Old mulch gets matted down and creates a barrier for water that's needed in the plants' roots. Break it up so it becomes permeable.
4. More is not always better
Don't spread mulch any more than 2 to 3 inches thick. Anything thicker could cause problems with fungus and pests. It could even kill plants. It's also a waste of money and energy.
5. Stay away from trees
Don't mound mulch at the base of trees. Water runs off the sides of the mulch and can deprive trees of water. A mount of mulch also invites disease and rodents. Instead, taper the mulch down toward the base of the tree.
6. Add a herbicide
For extra weed control, apply a pre-emergent herbicide to the mulch. These herbicides create a half-inch barrier in the soil that prevents the germination of weed seeds. They don't kill existing weeds or plants.