The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

So Mulch To Do!

6 Comments

Soooo … earlier this spring I had a HUGE freshly chipped mulch pile to deal with. And now, well, I still have a relatively fresh mulch pile to deal with – okay, maybe it’s a little smaller. Honestly, I thought I would have this mulch pile tackled by now (eek).

There is much controversy over using freshly chipped mulch in your planting beds. The argument is that the breakdown of the wood chips results in a nitrogen depletion and turns the soil acidic which in turn depletes your plants. Newly chipped mulch should be aged and turned for at least a year. BUT, I have also read freshly chipped mulch is okay as long as it does not mix in anyway with the soil, that trees and well established perennials may be considered immune, though annuals and vegetables are definitely taboo. I would love to do a test but well, where do I find the time with all that mulch to move?

I have spread this mulch around my trees and shrubs – young trees and shrubs – and so far, see no ill side effects. I have also spread this mulch around newly edged beds of perennials without consequence. I have even smothered young perennials and they have shot up through the fresh mulch without harm – i.e. Lady’s Mantle. I tried to smother some inherited Bishop’s Weed on purpose hoping that the new mulch would do harm, but well, that Bishop’s Weed is thriving *#!. My conclusion? Use freshly chipped mulch on your established perennials, trees, shrubs but hold back on annuals, vegetables, tender young plants and special specimens.

Mostly I am using this mulch for what is termed a “kill mulch.” (With the exception of Bishop’s Weed, of course.) This extraordinary mulch pile is allowing me to create my “woodland edge” bed without busting sod – whew. It is a large bed and by next spring, I hope to be planting in it. This season I will have to wait for the mulch to do the killing – of the grass (and weeds because my lawn is not perfect, but is shrinking). My method involves laying down overturned sod that I dug up from the potager for new beds, from newly edged existing beds, and from expanded beds in the front and along side the driveway. Then I layer newspaper (sprinkled with water so it doesn’t blow away), and a thick layer of newly chipped mulch.

This is my target. The entire edge of this blessed chainlink fence. This is how it looked when we moved in.

And here is how the bed is shaping up so far …

Here is the new bed as viewed from above. (The Spruce tree was planted two years ago.)

The bed will continue all the way up to the shed as long as I don’t run out of mulch – HA HA! It will incorporate the newly planted Serviceberry tree (previous picture). I plan to add one to two more smaller trees such as a Redbud, and a variety of shrubs including Winterberry to create a woodland edge setting. There’s mulch more to do!

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Author: Kathy Sturr

Author of the Violet Fern blog, artist, and master gardener.

6 thoughts on “So Mulch To Do!

  1. That is the way I have designed all my beds, using newspaper and mulch, all it takes is a lot of patience, although I have mulched in the spring and planted in the fall, just a bit more difficult to get the shovel in (patience is NOT my middle name). It is looking wonderful, can't wait to see it planted up.

  2. Your garden is looking great. I love the layout!

  3. WOW!! GREAT progress!! I like your method, although I must admit that I feel the need to rip up the sod. Of course, I end up weeding everytime I blink, but that's me! What can I say?! 🙂 I sat, enjoying your slide show in your sidebar for a few minutes. Really impressive! Nicely done!!!

  4. ha ha! your mulch pile looks just as huge as mine did after we got 10 yards of compost. my husband didn't think we'd ever use we did.all your work is paying off because everything is looking great!

  5. I've never tried freshly chipped wood as mulch, but then again I've never had a pile of it to try. I love the bed you're creating along the fence!I just dug up a whole (small) flower bed hoping I took the Bishop's Weed that was growing through everything. I'm sure it'll be popping back up in no time 😦

  6. Thank you all for your encouragement. I really can't wait to plant my new bed (that's not even finished – ha)! I do enjoy a good sod ripping now and then but not on such scale! I have been working on this mulch pile and feel that I just may run out – what irony! Bishop's weed should be banned. Have been meaning to update the slide show this season – stay tuned and so glad you enjoy!

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