Does your garden start to look more like a jungle by mid-summer? Even the most meticulous gardeners often find themselves in a never-ending battle with weeds, and that remains true whether you're growing flowers or vegetables. Mulch is an effective option to beautify a garden space while suppressing weeds, but it takes some skill to use correctly.

There are many different types of mulch available, but these three tips will focus on using natural wood chips. Keep reading to learn the many ways that wood chip mulch can take your home's gardens to the next level.

1. Use the Right Amount

Using mulch effectively requires a bit of planning, especially if you have a mix of different plant types in your garden and yard. When used in appropriate amounts, mulch will help retain moisture, suppress weeds, and even reduce pest problems. Too little or too much mulch can have potentially negative impacts, however.

If you're mulching close to plants, limit yourself to a layer that's at least two inches thick and no more than four inches high. Too little mulch will break down quickly and won't retain moisture as well, so you want at least an inch or two. Still, it's better to err on the lighter side since large mulch piles can harbor insects or retain so much moisture that fungus can become a problem.

2. Clear Weeds and Install Barriers

Mulch works well to suppress many weeds, but well-established plants can often begin to make their way back to the surface. Although you can pick these weeds by hand as they break through, it's often better and easier to clean the area before installing your mulch. Remove any existing weeds so that the bed you intend to mulch is down to bare soil.

As an additional measure, consider installing weed fabric and adding an inch or two of soil on top of it. The mulch will help to hold the material down and act as an added barrier, and the dual-layer protection will ensure that few weeds make it to the surface.

3. Use Edging

If you're mulching the base of trees or beds on the side of your home, don't forget to install edging between the mulch bed and lawn. Edging serves two critical functions: it prevents mulch from "wandering" and keeps grass from encroaching on your beds. Always start by digging a trench when edging to create an air gap that will stop grass and weeds.

Remember that correctly installing your mulch will ensure that you get the most benefit from it. Taking the extra time to edge, clean, and spread your mulch beds can ensure that your garden areas remain clean, tidy, and free of annoying weeds and pests.