How to install a new mulch bed.

Installing a new mulch bed sounds simple enough of a job until you are presented with such a job and have never done it before. Then you start to think about all the different ways you could go about doing it and then wonder to yourself, which way is best and will take the least amount of effort so as to maximize your profit. That is what one business owner was wondering when he wrote on the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum “I have a job tomorrow to put in a new mulch bed. Do I need to remove the sod or can I just put down weed barrier over the grass? Any ideas, I don’t have any big equipment to remove sod. Just my hands and a shovel.”

One lawn care business owner replied “I will tell you from experience, if you do not want to go back to fix anything after the job is complete, you need to get rid of the sod first. You don’t want anything in the way of successfully performing the job. Take out the sod then lay your barrier and lay in the mulch. Charge the customer for all work done including sod removal.

A second business owner said “There are a lot of determining factors here.

  • Is this going to be a raised bed?
  • Will there be plantings in it?
  • How thick will you be applying the mulch?

I would never apply a mulch or soil directly over turf, if you do you may be asking for problems.

Here are some problems you can encounter;

  • Poor drainage for the bed

By leaving the layer of turf under the bed you are adding a barrier for water to pool/collect. Therefore drowning the plantings in the bed and decomposing the mulch too quickly.

  • Organic matter stealing nitrogen

Turf is organic matter and when it breaks down it actually steals nitrogen from the soil to do so. Leaving the turf may stunt the growth of any plantings you install in the bed.

  • High maintenance for the bed

Leaving the turf under the bed is asking for hours of weed/grass pulling over the growing season, which is counterproductive in my book.

In closing, do it right in the beginning. Remove the turf before installing planting/mulch beds and you’ll save your self headaches in the future. Plus it makes you look better as a contractor to clients. You’ll leave them in a peace of mind knowing that the job was done correctly.

If it is a large area that needs to be removed and you don’t have the equipment to do the job, sub out the sod removal and then finish the job.”

A third lawn care business owner said “spray the area you want removed with round up first. Then wait two weeks for a good kill. Scalp the area that is to become the mulch bed to the ground or rent a sod cutter and cut it out. Leaving the roots in the soil actually aids in the aeration of the soil so water, nutrients, and air moves more readily to the root zone. Weed block is a very short term answer for suppression of weeds.

As your mulch decomposses it becomes nutrient rich compost which then lets the weeds grow on top of the mat. Even worse they root in the mat and become a real pain on future jobs.”

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