Removing Woodchip Mulch from Perennial beds

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Smallaxe, Mar 4, 2012.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Good idea or not?

    What do you do with mulched beds of perennials?

    And more importantly,,, Why???
  2. 3rdDayBrad

    3rdDayBrad LawnSite Member
    from MI
    Messages: 133

    Ummm, really? Do you not know the tremendous benefits of mulch? A 3" layer of mulch will keep weeds down, prevent moisture loss, look good, supply much needed organic matter to the soil.... need I go on? Mulch is a good thing... wood chips, not so much. There is a difference!
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    You make some valid points, but it should be acknowledged that as any mulch layer ages, it will begin to grow weeds from seeds getting into the mulch over time... spreading roots will really take off in mulch, such as quackgrass or Canadian thistle...

    I do agree with you that having it decay into the soil is only beneficial in a perennial/shrub landscaped bed.

    What do you consider "Mulch", if it is different from, "Wood chips"???

    My question remains: Why, would one regularily remove(or not remove) mulch from a perennial bed???
  4. Swampy

    Swampy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,435

    There is a old wives tale that as mulch decays it buries the plants to deep. Again wives tale don't know the possiablity of it happening.

    Now wood chips (as Mulch), not a good idea. They don't decompose fast enough. Leave the chips for the playground. But still better than nothing.

    Personally I call anything you layer in a bed a "mulch" (decoritive stone, wood chips, shreaded bark, the dreaded lava rock, etc....). Go thing about mulch though, its easy to sell and resell, repeat business from same costumers.
  5. 3rdDayBrad

    3rdDayBrad LawnSite Member
    from MI
    Messages: 133

    Weed seeds are just can not get rid of them. In the spring, after I do a bed clean-up (weed, edge, rake out debri), I like to put down a product such as Preen to help prevent those seeds from germinating. I usually will do it before the new layer of mulch goes down. As long as that barrier is not broken, you should experience season long results.

    As for your remaining question... thats a good one. Only reason you may want to remove mulch is if you are renovating the bed, or changing it over to stone or a like product. The reason you would leave it in was already touched upon... weeds, organic matter, etc. (Although, again, I like to rake out the beds come spring to rid the beds of any garbage, and give the beds a clean 'base' to lay the new mulch down on.) I hope this helps!
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    OK, let us say we want to 'renovate' a bed that has been covered in chips, shredded bark , or whatever but it has a decomposed base, by the time the renovation occurs...

    How much of the old stuff do we remove? All the way to a "Clean Soil" line? Only the loose debri of undecayed structure?
    Pre-m can be dumped on any surface that seeds can get a foot hold...

    I guess the real question is:
    "What is a wise cultural practice for handling mulched beds?
    (this question is in reference to, what is best for the plants, not the pocketbook)
  7. superdog1

    superdog1 LawnSite Member
    Male, from Lebanon, PA
    Messages: 218

    I had to remove quite a bit of mulch last year. 2 of my customers got carried away over the years and just dumped it on when they were taking care of the beds. I ended up taking off almost 2 yards between the 2 accounts. I had no choice, as it was uneven and lumpy and just looked like crap. Mulch has mass to it, so if you put 2" on every year, sooner or later it will overflow.

    Obviously, a 2x2 or 8x8 or whatever size the area is, will get to the point where enough is enough and when you are asked to mulch it and the bed is full, you MUST remove some of the old stuff to make room for the new. I think this is what the OP is getting at? If I do have to take it off, I charge extra for it, as it is extra work and I am not a charity, LOl. If the current height is OK with the customer, I just take off whatever I need to so the new mulch fits. I also give them a second option of just "dusting" the top to renew the color. Most take this option, as they don't like to pay me to remove mulch that they just paid me last year to put on, LOl
  8. 3rdDayBrad

    3rdDayBrad LawnSite Member
    from MI
    Messages: 133

    Good topic here..... Mulch is beneficial, but if it is applied to heavy, or has lots of larger pieces in it, there will be build up over the seasons. If done right.... 3-4" to start and then a "dusting" every year, you should be fine. That seasonal dusting helps to replace that which was lost to decomposition.
    When you are talking renovating.... depends what you are doing. Are you redoing the whole bed? If the plants are being removed and you have a open bed, I would consider tilling the existing mulch into the soil. You are introducing organic matter back into the soil and improving the overall texture. Remember to add some general purpose fertilizer when you do this, as this increase in organic matter will use up the nitrogen in the soil rather quickly.
    If you are just redoing the bed by removing the older stuff, I agree with you... just rake out the old stuff... the larger 'chunks' and debri. The plants won't know what you're doing. Just make sure there is no more than about 3-4" of mulch when you are done. Any more than that and you are working too hard for no added benefit.
    Again, good thread.

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