Raleigh Landscaping Materials
There is slightly more to it than dumping the stuff all over the ground and spreading it around with a rake. Professional Raleigh landscapers use edging tools to get that well-defined transition from lawn to planting bed, or maybe your yard already has some well-defined edges, in which case you can dig along the sides of driveways, walkways and patios to lower the ground level a couple inches below grade. Slope the soil gradually to the adjacent grade on the other side so that it doesn't drop off abruptly, but leave enough of a lip there to hold the mulch in place. Don't think for a minute that skimming off a few inches of topsoil has completely eradicated weeds. Weeds are insidious, lying awake during their dormant stage underground, plotting their next surprise attack on your lawn. This means that you too should lie awake at night devising clever strategies to defeat them. While you're digging out your mulch bed, be on the lookout for root systems that you can tear out of the earth with your bare hands, but even then don't assume the war is won. Your killing spree has just begun.
Sheet mulching is a technique that uses cardboard or other biodegradable material to deprive weeds of any means of possible conquest. It is an environmentally friendly tactic and far more effective than herbicides. While the neighbors aren't looking, put down two to three layers of corrugated cardboard such as old appliance boxes or packing, and overlap the pieces by several inches so that weeds can't maneuver their way upward through the cracks. Over time, the cardboard will decompose and add nutrients to the soil, and if you need to cut through it to plant something, so be it.
Supermarkets in Raleigh don't give away cardboard like they used to, but someone on the way to the recycling center may have a truckload they'll let you have, or you could enter into negotiations with the recycler. Into your cardboard pit, dump enough mulch to make about a four-inch thickness, bearing in mind that it will settle to two or three inches in no time at all.
Newspaper is another option, if you subscribe to the local Raleigh paper on a daily basis or know someone who does. It takes one whole heck of a lot of newspaper - at least a year of the Sunday edition plus all the advertising inserts if you live in a major metropolitan area - to put a damper on the enthusiasm of only the smallest section of weeds. As anyone can tell you, politics is heavily infused with fertilizer.
A lot of garden centers in Raleigh, Cary or Chapel Hill will try to sell you a weed control fabric to put down beneath a top layer of mulch, gravel or soil. This might not be the greatest idea ever, though it's clearly a notch above sprays and herbicides. Weeds come in from the top, and frankly that's also the problem with cardboard and newspaper. The difference here is that fabric is forever, designed to resist breaking down in any way under any circumstances, and once a weed grows its roots through the fabric it's pretty much invincible as well. You'll never be able to pull that weed out of the ground and, next thing you know, you're searching the shelves of your garage for your private arsenal of sprays and herbicides.
Even worse, the fabric doesn't permit rainwater to soak into groundwater, and that may be the most dismal of its many failures. The instructions tell you to cut a hole through the fabric for anything you might want to plant, but the only water that plant will get will be whatever finds its way to that relatively small hole. Your tree, shrub or flower will look at you like you're crazy and it's just real hard to take that kind of criticism from a plant. Professional Raleigh landscapers add a new one-inch layer of mulch every year for several years. At some point in the three-to-four year range, they rake out all the old mulch and start over. You don't want to let the mulch get too deep, too old and too dry, especially if you have at least one snarky friend who is likely to flick a lit cigarette butt into the flowerbed during an intensely hot and arid Raleigh summer drought.