Weeds are bad news. So isn’t it a kick in the pants when you discover the doofus responsible for all the new weeds in your yard is YOU? And it all started when you ordered that truckload of topsoil, manure, or mulch.
Perhaps you’ve had the horrible experience of spreading bulk topsoil over your yard, only to find yourself the proud owner of a beautiful new patch of ground ivy. Or topping off your planting beds with bulk mulch and can now boast a superb collection of nutgrass.
The key word in both cases is “bulk” — in other words, soil and mulch not delivered in bags, but scooped up into a truck from a landscape supply yard and dumped with great fanfare at the home of an excited and innocent gardener. Yes, bulk materials cost a lot less per cubic foot than bagged materials, but there’s a trade-off. With bagged topsoil, manure, and mulch, you pretty much know what you’re getting just read the label and stick to name brands.
However, with bulk material, chances are, you’ll get what you want — but you may also get what you don’t want. So let’s talk a little bit about how to safely buy bulk products.
Here are three simple ways to improve your chances of buying good bulk topsoil.
1. Buy from a local supplier you know. Ask where the topsoil comes from. Ask if it contains any organic matter. Ask if it has weeds.
2. Buy only screened topsoil that does not contain rocks, twigs, trash, or debris.
3. Run a simple test. Buy just a pot of topsoil, take it home, water it, and see if anything comes up.
Cow, horse, and sheep manure start out as grass and other plants. The digestive systems of these animals allow seeds to pass right through in mint condition. So never use straight-off-the-farm manure that hasn’t been properly composted for a year to kill the weeds.
As with topsoil, buy from a local supplier you know. Bulk mulch such as shredded hardwood and ground pine bark should have far less weed seeds than soil, because it didn’t start out on the ground. So just inspect it to make sure it doesn’t contain any leaves, stems, or vegetative matter. Make sure it’s been composted for a year too, because fresh mulch will rob the soil of nitrogen as microbes break it down. DON’T buy mulch made from shredded pallets, pressure-treated lumber, or scrap wood. These could contain harmful chemicals or destructive insects, such as termites and borers.
A bit of mindfulness can make all the difference in avoiding the introduction of unwanted weeds to your yard or garden.