This spring we were pleased to see almost all of the perennials made it through the winter. Some didn’t – one of our risky zone 5 butterfly bushes is no longer with us, even though I mulched it with straw. And we had a road salt casualty near the driveway. Other perennials have filled in nicely from last year, but some areas around the newer ones still have a little more space between them where weed seeds try to land and conquer.
In the past, we did not have a good experience with wood chips alone as a mulch, or even in combination with the black weed barrier fabric. The fabric just didn’t do as well as we would have liked for the price. So, last year I went to a local store and asked for some free cardboard boxes, emphasis on free. They asked me if I was moving, and were surprised when I said it was for the garden.
I simply cut the cardboard to fit the space on the ground I needed to mulch around a plant, cutting a hole for the plant generous enough for new growth and water to get in. Then, to make it look neater I used some decorative wood mulch to cover the top of the cardboard, as the wood chips blended in with the cardboard color underneath. This method used less of the decorative mulch and kept down the weeds very well. We didn’t have a problem with the mulch blowing away either, as the level of the depression was slightly below ground level and the area itself was mostly flat. Though with the wilder weather this spring, nothing is guaranteed.
This year we are doing a better job at disrupting the weeds before they have a chance to take hold, but cardboard mulch is another method of keeping them down over the course of the season.