mulch

(Question)

I have two questions. The first is, I have black cedar mulch on my garden at the moment that I put on in the spring. One person has told me I should remove that every fall. But I’ve also read that it will gradually decompose into the soil and that that’s OK. In practice, I’ve been trying to remove at least all the bigger pieces (it’s hard to get all of it anyway). Am I doing the right thing?

My second question is, what about mulching for over the winter? The person who told me to remove the cedar mulch also recommended that I should then put down compost (at this time of year). I don’t make my own compost so that would have to be bought cattle manure or similar. Do you recommend this? (I’ve read that I can use things like shredded leaves after the ground has frozen but shredding leaves would be impractical for me.) Also, if I add manure, should I wait till the ground has frozen, as they recommend for shredded leaves? And, how necessary do you think it is to put down winter mulch? I’ve never done it before. If it makes any difference, my garden is small and fairly sheltered.

 

(Answer)

Thanks for your questions. I am thinking that you are newish to gardening and want to do all the right treatments. Neighbors are very helpful with gardening tips as is the Internet. Keep listening, reading and doing.

Is your soil in fact heavy clay? Do you know what type of soil you really have? Not a bad idea to have it tested allowing you to correctly add ammendments.

I am not aware of removing mulch. It is initially put down to help with weed control, aesthetics, moisture control  and ultimately to be worked into your soil. Mulching is a personal choice in a garden but it does have some advantages. I would leave it to decompose assuming that you have only added 2 to 3 inches of mulch to start.

Compost is always good in a garden. It can be put down at any time in the fall. If it is applied too late then the worms will not work it into the soil as easily after the ground is frozen. They will work it in next Spring. Compost of manure, chopped leaves, or homemade is all good. In my experience if you add compost and mulch every year your beds will become higher than the lawn which sometimes leads to water run off.

Landscape Ontario has a good site for preparing your garden in the Fall.Check previous Master Gardener questions on Fall preparation as well.http://landscapeontario.com/fall-gardening-checklist