What To Do With Old Mulch

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 09:04 pm

Mulch is a material that covers the soil to keep the soil moist and protect plant roots from heat or cold. Mulching helps reduce weeds and can improve the appearance of a garden.

Also, while your vegetable or flower beds may not be used during the winter months, wind or rain can wash soil away from these beds unless they are protected. That’s where mulch comes in. Organic mulch helps improve soil fertility as it decomposes.

What To Do With Old Mulch

Organic Mulch:

  • Bark
  • Compost
  • Composted manure
  • Grass clippings
  • Newspaper
  • Shredded leaves
  • Straw
  • Hays

Inorganic mulch includes stone or gravel and black plastic. Whichever mulch you decide on, take the time to cultivate and water it before laying the mulch.

Should I remove the old mulch?

CorseMachin | Paillis d'écorce déchiqueté

Old mulch refers to mulch that remains intact one year after it is laid. There is no need to remove old mulch – as long as it has not decomposed significantly.

You can tell if it is still usable by salvaging some of it. If it has turned into fine particles, such as dirt, it could be replaced. Alternatively, you can work it into the soil and it will serve a similar function to compost because it is organic matter.

The old usable soil will continue to decompose, adding more nutrients and organic matter to your soil. It acts as a slow release fertilizer.

Removing old mulch is a time consuming and difficult job. Leaving it on the ground also means you won’t have to get as much new mulch, which will save you money.

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Removing old mulch could also cause significant damage to your plants’ roots. If your plants in a particular garden bed experienced a disease last year and you think it may be related to the mulch, you may want to consider removing it.

If your mulch has been knitted together, you do not need to remove it. Peel back the mulch with a rake and add some on top. However, if you notice any fungus or mildew, use a fungicide or remove the mulch if it is severely damaged.

You should only remove old mulch completely if you are using a material such as engineered wood fiber or other engineered material.

How To Reuse Old Mulch?

Before planting time, rake the old from one side, to prepare the garden bed. Put compost on the bed and work it into the soil. Then put back the old mulch and add the new mulch you need.

When you plant, gently pull the mulch apart to put in your plants or seeds, then replace it.

How Much Mulch Do I Need?

The amount of mulch you will need depends on the height of your old mulch. Ideally, mulch should be about two inches high on flower beds and three inches deep on shrub beds and around tree stumps. Simply add new mulch if the old mulch does not provide enough coverage.

Be careful not to add too much mulch. If it’s too deep, your plants’ roots can suffocate, your soil can overheat if the weather is nice, or your soil may not have enough water. If your thick mulch becomes too wet, it can encourage the spread of disease.

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If you decide to mulch around a tree, it is important that the mulch not be too thick, especially around the tree trunk. A “mulch volcano” can cause disease because of any excess moisture in the mulch adjacent to the bark.

If you can’t find new mulch in the same color as the old mulch, it will resist the old color.

When Should I Mulch?

Que faire avec du vieux paillis ? - jardin-et-plantes.fr

Spring is usually the time to lay mulch when the soil is warm and watered. Spread the mulch loosely to allow air to penetrate the soil. Mulch can protect your beds from the intense heat during the summer months.

The exact time in the spring to lay mulch will depend on where you live and when your perennials typically begin to grow new shoots. The soil should begin to thaw and any chance of a hard freeze should be past.

Before laying down new mulch, you may want to remove some of the old mulch over your perennial garden beds to let air circulate. If you put down mulch too soon, your new plants could be damaged or their leaves could be disfigured.

It’s a good idea to wait to mulch until your perennials have arrived and reached a certain height. Apply mulch around them, which will keep weeds away. Mulch can also be applied in the fall and will act as insulation to prevent winter weather from eroding your soil.

What About Cover Crops?

Cover crops, also known as living mulch, consist of annual flower beds and vegetable gardens planted in the fall for winter protection. This is useful when you have a large garden. Remove cover crops in the spring when you are ready to plant.

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Mow first, then use a tiller on the garden – this is called “plowing under” the cover crops. This will free up your garden for your plants and give your soil lots of nutrients. Then spread the compost and until under.


Old mulch can be removed completely or used with new mulch for your garden. Natural mulch will slowly degrade and provide nutrients in the soil, while synthetic mulch will not degrade or provide any nutrients.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/james-jones-436784297/ gardeninguru@outlook.com Jones James

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