Have you been wondering what to do with old mulch? Put aside your worries; this article is for you.
Having mulch on your farm is a good move if you want healthy produce. However, disposing of old mulch can be a headache and pretty costly. And you probably don’t want to throw away mulch you’ve spent months or years churning and tending.
There are solutions here for you.
You can dispose of old mulch by gathering it up and taking it to a biodegradation site. You can also use leftover mulch as a soil amendment agent. Moreover, you can reuse old mulch as compost on the farm.
All these are viable options. Read on to get an in-depth look at these solutions and more.
- What To Do With Old Mulch
While using the prefix ‘old’ here may sound like the mulch has become useless, old mulch can still hold much value. Old mulch can still serve a purpose to you and your soil. Let’s look.
- Soil Amendment
When considering what to do with old mulch, one easy solution is using it for soil preparation or soil amendment.
Soil amendment involves adding products to the soil to improve its quality. Although old mulch may be considered deficient in enough nutrients to help out soil texture, it could be of significant use when added to soil already mixed with compost.
You should add the old mulch under the soil bed for the decomposition of fresh compost to be practical and release nutrients.
It’s essential to remember the products used to make the old mulch. Grass clippings decompose faster than pine and wood bark; you’ll need uniformly decomposed old mulch in the case of soil amendment.
When the old mulch is applied correctly to compost mixed soil, microorganism activity in the soil increases, this increase releases waste that is beneficial to improving soil nutrient quotient.
- Make Compost
Consider this solution if you’ve examined your old mulch and determined it has not uniformly decomposed.
Old compost doesn’t have the same nutritional value as fresh compost; however, use the old mulch to make compost if it still has a good texture.
Compost primarily comprises organic materials that decay faster; therefore, while going through what to do with old mulch, the idea of adding it to new compost is viable.
The old compost increases the nutritional value of compost, which improves the texture of soil when added to the farm.
Rake up the old mulch and, using a spade, mix it with fresh compost in heaps outside the farm and let it rest for a few days or weeks, depending on the materials used.
Check if the compost and old mulch have mixed uniformly before adding to your farm.
- How To Dispose of Old Mulch
Sometimes, people choose entirely to do away with mulch; this is a reasonable solution in some cases.
Mulch is wholly decomposed once it reaches the ‘old’ stage. That means that there’s a possibility that toxic chemicals and microorganisms may be lurking in the mulch.
For proper disposal of old mulch, follow the suggested steps.
- Gather Old Mulch Together
Put on gloves and gather up the old mulch into a heap using a rake. It’s best if you gather the mulch little by little. Don’t rake up all of it at once. Leaving the soil and plants exposed to the elements may lower soil quality.
While you rake up a section, prepare soil cover for that exposed section.
- Pack The Mulch
Once you’ve collected little heaps of old mulch, using a shovel, place the mulch in tarps or a yard waste bag. You can get these biodegradable bags from your local agricultural store.
Brush the mulch into these bags and place them in your waste container for organic waste. Only put the old mulch in an organic bin if the products used were organic and biodegradable.
Place the bins outside for the city to pick up and dispose of properly.
- Can I Reuse Old Mulch?
Yes, you can still reuse old mulch. Even though it’s possibly fully decomposed when you’re going through this article, there are several things you could still do with it.
- Continue Using As Soil Cover
Old mulch changes its size and texture as it has fully decomposed. Although it may not benefit your soil and plants at this stage, old mulch can still be used as soil cover.
Instead of gathering and disposing of, spread old mulch evenly on your soil to act as a wind barrier, continue helping in moisture retention and ground cover.
However, with the changed size and texture, the old mulch may not cover the soil from the wind as fresh mulch; therefore, consider adding new mulch or compost on top of the old mulch.
Additionally, expect old mulch to clump up quickly when exposed to weather elements, so if this is your chosen solution on what to do with old mulch, be sure to rake up and fluff the mulch constantly.
- Slow Release Fertilizer
As is, old mulch can be left alone on a section in the field and regarded as slow fertilizer. This method is an efficient but underrated idea when considering options for reusing old mulch.
Slow mulch fertilizer simply means that until the mulch loses its texture and nutritional value, it can be heaped together and left alone to slowly release nitrogen into the soil.
This method, however, doesn’t work for all kinds of mulch. It’s preferred for old mulch made using pine and bark wood. Pine and bark wood mulch decomposes slowly and is high in nutrients, so they may still have nitrogen-rich nutrients to release into the soil even in their ‘old’ state.
Wood-based old mulch is high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. This mulch adds nutrients to the soil even as it decomposes; it’s also a great cooling agent for the plants during warmer seasons.
Old mulch made of non-biodegradable products like rubber and plastic won’t have these benefits, though.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Should You Rake Up Old Mulch?
Yes, you should rake up old mulch. Old mulch has a different texture from fresh mulch; this means that it doesn’t hold your soil as it did.
It’s important to rake up old mulch as it quickly gets clumpy. Clumpy mulch causes poor aeration and impedes moisture movement from soil to plant.
Old mulch, primarily composed of wood-based materials, forms matt-heap clumps that don’t let rain or irrigation water through.
It’s a good idea to rake old mulch to avoid these harmful effects.
- Should I Remove Mulch in Spring?
Yes and no. Deciding on removing mulch in spring depends on the condition of the old mulch after the winter period.
At the beginning of the spring season, check if the texture of your old mulch still holds us. Does it easily break apart, or is there a hold to it?
If you find that the old mulch has lost its quality look and feel, you should remove the old mulch in spring.
Additionally, you can check the layer level of the mulch. Ideally, healthy mulch should be about 3 inches thick. If your mulch is thinned out during the winter, it’s time to add fresh mulch in spring.
- Should You Remove Old Mulch Every Year?
There would be no need to remove old mulch every year as it continues to break down over the years. Consequently, it adds vital and the most needed nutrients to the soil. What’s more? It’s an expense that isn’t worth your time.
So, save yourself the trouble and let it lie if it shows no signs of being useless to your plants.
- How Do I Know If I Can Use My Old Mulch?
You can know if your old mulch is helpful by doing a physical exam. Simply pick up some of the mulch and feel the texture. If it breaks apart easily, meaning the particles have no hold, it may be time to replace the old mulch.
Additionally, when looking at the mulch on your farm, you find no distinguishable difference between the old mulch and the soil; the best thing to do with the old mulch would be to dispose of and apply fresh mulch.
However, if the old mulch retains its original look and feel, it may still have value. You can continue to use it as soil cover on your farm. Just add fresh mulch and mix for more nutrient generation.
Don’t use old mulch if any disease or pests attacked your plants during the past planting season while the mulch was on the field.
Many farmers find it difficult to dispose of mulch because the process may be expensive if you have heaps of it and because it feels wasteful.
It’s important to give back to the land as much as it has provided for you. With these methods, you can save your money and time and protect your soil.
If your city doesn’t provide pick-up services for farm waste, you’ll need to drive around looking for landfills — that’s tedious, though.
I’’ve considered different situations and you now know what to do with old mulch. I hope at least one of these solutions works for you.