Spring is an amazing time for spending hours in your garden. After many months spent cooped up in your house throughout the long winter months in Wisconsin, now is the time that you can finally enjoy some fresh air, bright sunlight and some dirt under your fingernails. While early spring may not be the right time for planting many of your new seeds and bulbs or transplanting your perennials or vegetables into your garden, it is the right time to get the garden ready for what is to come.
Although mulch is certainly not the prettiest thing in your garden, it serves a vital role of covering delicate plant roots, keeping weeds at bay, adding organic matter to the soil and keeping moisture in during the drier periods that are sure to happen during the summer. These four tips will help you know just what you should do with the old mulch that may still be layered over your garden from last year and how you should use new garden mulch this spring:
1. Stir up the Old Mulch
Early in the spring, such as in late March or early April, head out to your garden to see how the old mulch is faring. Walk carefully because it is possible that perennials are already beginning to poke their heads out for the year. During this time, you will want to see how moist the soil is beneath the mulch. Your garden is not yet ready to be newly mulched until the old mulch has begun drying out a bit.
2. Wait for Warmth
In addition, you will want to wait for the soil beneath the old mulch to warm. If you apply new mulch before the soil is warm and dry, you could be trapping the cold winter temperatures in the soil, causing your garden planting schedule to be delayed. Try stirring up the old mulch gently to let it dry.
3. Strip the Old Mulch
Once the weather has warmed up and your garden has dried out more, you can dedicate more of your time to playing in the soil. Start by stripping away as much of the old mulch as you can. This will help your perennials and bulbs that are already in place to feel the warmth of the sun and to burst forth.
4. Choose the Right New Mulch
Now that your garden has been transformed with a fresh surface, you can apply new mulch. At least one inch of fresh mulch should be laid down every year. However, if you are using mulch specifically to keep weeds away, you will want to lay a much heavier layer of at least four inches. Organic mulch, such as that made from wood chips, creates healthier soil as it decomposes. Consider double-shredded oak bark or a general hardwood mulch.
Garden mulch does much more than simply create a great scent and a fresh, clean look for your garden. It can also be a nourishing, protecting product to make your garden produce better looking fruits, vegetables and flowers. Be sure to stir up your old mulch early this spring to prepare for a fresh application by May.