Re-using shredded cedar mulch

wishccr(Z4-5 CO)April 20, 2008

Hi all! I cleared my gardens of pea-gravel mulch a couple years ago (I will NEVER do that again except in specific areas where washout is a problem.)

I replaced the gravel with shredded cedar mulch, which has done wonders for my garden. In the spring I have been scraping all the mulch off, working some compost and fertilizer in, putting the old mulch back, and adding new mulch on top.

Last week I read an article that said you should not re-use the mulch, it should go to the compost pile. Any thoughts on this? The old mulch may be a bit gray, but would there be any reason you couldn't reuse it? My landscape is very rustic and I don't mind the gray color.

Thanks for your help, as always!

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Did the article give any reason why you shouldn't reuse the mulch? I've never heard or read anything to indicate that mulch needs to be replaced on a regular basis. Was the article written by somebody who has a vested interest in selling mulch?

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 12:28AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Wish,

IÂve never heard of that eitherÂand have never replaced any mulch. When I plant I rake it back away from where IÂm gonna dig the hole, and when IÂm done I push it back where it was to start with. A couple days ago I just took all the mulch off of the top of two whisky barrels I have in the front yard, and itÂs now in a big plastic pot waiting to be put back on top of the soil in the same whiskey barrels when theyÂre planted for this year. I do tend to add a little more on top around my perennials each year because the stuff thatÂs on the bottom thatÂs in contact with the soil gradually composts into the soil, so I just make sure thereÂs a good layer there. There is a color contrast when I put fresh stuff on here and there, but in a couple weeks it fades and all looks the same again. The only thing I know of that you shouldnÂt do with wood mulch is mix a whole bunch of it into the soil if you have things growing there or are going to be planting things there since undecayed wood would bind the nitrogen in the soil while it was decaying, so youÂd probably wind up with some poor looking, struggling plants until the majority of the wood was decayed.

Other than that, I agree with BP, was the writer in the mulch-selling business? Besides, if "old" mulch wasnÂt safe to put back around plants, it wouldnÂt be safe to put it on the compost pile either!

As long as itÂs not rock, itÂs good!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 1:33AM
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wishccr(Z4-5 CO)

I read this on a Roger Cook "This Old House" gardening tips was about preparing your garden for Spring. He seems to think old mulch will rob your garden of nitrogen.

That you both for your input, I'd rather spend my money on new plants than mulch any day!

    Bookmark   April 21, 2008 at 3:46PM
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My garden soil PH is 7.6. How much will the cedar mulch increase my PH?

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 7:48PM
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wishccr - I have to agree with all the other statements you got. Unless the stuff is full of weed seeds, pesticides, herbicides or for some other reason I would not replace it, the three R's come into place, reduce reuse recycle.

Donna - contact your extension office, I don't know off hand, but if you want organic information, let them know that. If they won't give you organic call another office or call CSU Boulder directly and let them know that that office would not give you the info you wanted.

Oh, as a sidenote, the El Paso County extension office has the Master Gardner program back and they just published an article about mulches that I thought was pretty interesting. I remeber we had the great rubber tire mulch debate going a while back and they concurred with our opinion. I will bring it with me tomorrow for anyone who wants to read it.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 10:19PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

Wood (or any carbon source) will eat up nitrogen when it degrades. Eventually it releases it again as the wood completely breaks down, but it will need extra nitrogen in the meantime. My soil, at least, is so nitrogen-starved that I'm always adding N sources to it anyway.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 1:45PM
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