Mulches reduce weeds and improve plant growth
Nothing makes a flower or shrub bed look neat and attractive like a fresh application of mulch. In the Pacific Northwest, bulk bark dust is readily available and inexpensive. If you don’t have access to a pickup, it can be delivered to your driveway. If you don’t have time to spread it yourself, a landscaper can do it for you.
Most weed seeds need light to germinate. Mulch prevents most light from reaching the soil surface. So weed growth is greatly reduced. Weed preventing chemicals can also be applied before or after applying mulch to further reduce weed germination. Soil can also be covered with weed barrier fabric before applying mulch.
Mulch also reduces water evaporation which reduces the amount of water needed for summer irrigation. Organic mulches such as bark dust and compost add nutrients to the soil as they break down into humus. They also improve the physical structure of the soil which improves water movement into the soil and plant growth.