Mulching has long been used by gardeners and landscaping professionals to improve the soil and make plants healthier. In the simplest of terms, mulch is a layer of material that is added to the top of the soil. It can be added due to a number of reasons, such as for improving the level of moisture or to make the soil more fertile.

However, if you are new to gardening, you might not even know what mulch is. Mulch is basically any kind of material that can be laid over the surface of the soil. It is basically used as a covering and is used primarily for the retention of soil moisture. Mulch also helps in keeping the soil cool, and also prevents heavy frost on the soil during the winter months.

More importantly, mulch also improves the aesthetic appeal of the garden bed, making it look considerably more attractive. Organic mulch, which is also commonly available in the market, can also improve the structure of the soil and its drainage. As the mulch continues to decompose, it will also improve the nutrient holding capacities of the soil.

Does Mulch Go Bad?

Now, there are several types of organic mulch that you can find in the market. It’s recommended that you do a bit of research about which kind of mulch would be suitable for your soil before you decide to lay it on. Some of the most common types of mulch that you will find in the market include:

  • Straw mulch
  • Newspaper
  • Grass clippings
  • Pine needles
  • Shredded leaves
  • Chipped or shredded bark

With the passage of time, organic mulch is going to decompose, and will need to be replaced. However, its decomposition will also improve the structure of the soil and the organic content. The drier it is and the woodier it is, the slower it is going to decompose. It also provides the lowest amount of nutrients to the soil.

What About Bagged Mulch?

You can easily buy bagged mulch from your local gardening store and spread it all over the yard. But, the question is, does mulch go bad? To put it simply, yes. All kinds of mulch will go bad, and it will need to be replaced over the passage of time. You can’t just pour on layers and layers of mulch, so it’s important that you remove the bottom layer once it has completely decomposed before layering another one.

As a rule, bagged mulch is usually sold in bags. It’s also commonly bark, since it’s easier to carry and does not require you to use a wheelbarrow or even a shovel. Most people are under the impression that bagged mulch doesn’t go bad. While it can be stored for a considerably longer period of time when compared with conventional mulch, you should know that bagged mulch must be stored in a proper manner.

First of all, you need to make sure that the product remains properly ventilated and dry. This is much easier said than done.

Storage Methods

If you buy mulch in bulk quantities, you need to place it in a properly secluded area. Place a large tarp under the mulch bags and also use some weed barrier fabric to prevent moisture from passing through. More importantly, you will want to spread the pile out as much as you can to allow air to flow all around the mulch and keep it properly ventilated. This will prevent mold or mildew from developing in the bag.

Mulch can also go bad if it is not applied properly. If you leave the mulch unattended, there is a strong chance that it’s going to cause serious damage to the shrubs or trees in your garden. There are certain signs that indicate mulch is going bad. Here’s what you need to look for.

Volcanoes

You might notice mulch volcanoes appearing around the base of the tree. This usually happens when mounds of mulch accumulate near the base of the tree. If you place mulch around the base of the tree, especially in large quantities, it could cause damage to the tree. Make sure that mulch is placed at least four inches around the trunk.

Hydrophobia

There is a chance that you might end up putting water-repellent mulch all around the property. This is a serious problem, and it usually happens when you let mulch sit for too long. If you don’t turn the mulch over and let it sink, it’s eventually going to serve as a protective layer for the soil, preventing even water from seeping through.

As you can imagine, this is a serious problem. The mulch will prevent water from reaching the newly planted shrubs and trees, and they are going to start dying very quickly. During the summer season, the woody mulch tends to get quite hot due to the decomposition. This causes it to dry out completely. With the passage of time, fungi starts to develop on top, and this hardens the mulch, to the point where water begins to run off to the sides.

You also need to keep a lookout for infected or diseased mulch. Unwanted pests, fungi, or mold may develop in the fungi, and this could cause it to become diseased or infected. You have to keep a sharp eye out for this and make sure that you remove it right away. Keep an eye out for artillery fungus or slime mold, as both of these can be quite harmful.

Mulch is generally a great choice for your soil, and will only improve the health of your plants. But, you need to make sure that you layer it down properly and do not leave it unattended.

As mentioned, you need to be consistent with turning over the mulch to get the maximum benefits from it. As long as you are careful and continue to supervise the mulch on a daily basis, you will be able to identify when it’s going bad and take remedial action right away.

Author

I have a bachelor's degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies...I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house.

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