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to mulch or not to mulch?

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2006
by ND farm girl on October 17, 2006 03:22 AM
I've never really taken care of the flower beds I've always had here, but now that I have been investing more money and time into my yard these past 2 years...should I be putting straw or leaves or something around some of my plants? I have a lot of new things I planted this fall - some small minature lilac bushes, a lot of cone flowers - in fact, I was just out there in the cool drizzle wind and planted 2 that came in the mail today. I did put a bucket over them - just because I want to protect them for as long as I can - or should I not?

Just wondering if I should put anything around my new baby plants that I planted this fall or not.

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by daylily77 on October 17, 2006 04:17 AM
Hi Patty! Mulching is of course very good for flowers and plants, it holds in moisture and also keeps the soil at a regulated temperature. I would recommend using Composted Manure to mulch. Straw and leaves would work great too though! Especially if you're digging new things in a lot, then you don't have to contend with wood chips. (Although I've found out that there are ways to make that work too.)

As far as covering your new plants with a bucket, you should only do that on nights where a frost is expected. Your plants need as much air circulation as possible, and also the sun can bake them like that, even if it's not at all hot outside. Or are there freezing temps in the day there, too? I hope that helps! [Smile]
by joclyn on October 17, 2006 04:53 AM
i mulch with licorice root - it looks really nice, holds it's color well and doesn't wash away or blow away if it's dried out and it's easy enough to move aside when something needs moving/planting and can be moved back to cover any bare areas. it also breaks down pretty nicely so it adds to the condition of the soil.

i put down a good layer of leaves in the fall - i crumble them up a bit and pack them down a bit, too. i remove them in the spring - leaving the bottom-most layer because it's started to decompose.

i turn over the top layers of leaves and mulch and work it into the soil and then apply a new layer of the lic root. i put a thicker layer around plants like the hydrangea - which are very sensitive to lack of water and the mulch really helps to hold the moisture in. i put a thinner layer down over the areas where the bulbs are...don't want the shoots to have too rough a time growing up and reaching the sun.

if you've got a lot of newly planted items and/or things that might be iffy for your zone, i'd strongly recommend putting down a good layer of something to protect them from a potentially bad freeze during the winter (and it DOES get cold up there in ND). once the plants are well-established you don't, necessarily, have to be so diligent about it.

for overwintering, i've just always done the leaves thing - they're right there, so why not? and i do tend to go a bit overboard with it...which helped the one year when we got a lot of snow (30+ inches in one storm after 12 or so the week before).

the reasons i use leaves: 1) they're FREE and 2) they're nature's preferred method 3) they break down and provide nutrients 4) they're FREE ( oops! [lala] [angel] i mentioned that one already! [Big Grin] [grin] )

ditto what daylily said about covering the only need to do that at night. unless you've got something like a hibiscus and some varieties of bamboo - they would need to be properly wrapped to make it through the winter (with burlap).
by ND farm girl on October 17, 2006 07:23 AM
I have brand new hardy hibiscus, they are just tiny, cover them all winter? With what? I'm glad you mentioned those - I was trying to remember I needed to do that. Also - I have new hydrangeas - I should cover the entire plant with something or just the roots?

I have to look up that licorice mulch - is it black? Sounds nice.


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by joclyn on October 17, 2006 09:43 AM
here's some info that'll help with the hibiscus:


msu site

growing hibiscus in the north

you shouldn't need to do anything to the hydrangea other than making sure the roots are well mulched. basically that's it for all the plants - make sure the roots are well-insulated for the winter.

when it comes to the hibiscus, check those links neighbor got one a couple of years ago. it must have been a tropical type and not a hardy type - i remember the person at the garden center specifically said it needed to be wrapped in burlap for the winter (he didn't maintain it properly and it died). you need to make sure which type you have as well as if it's really hardy in your zone...then treat it accordingly.

only one company offers the licorice root mulch; that is mafco - the name of the mulch is 'right dress licorice root mulch'. white bag with black lettering. a bag costs about $5.00 and i think it's 40 lbs.

i get it at lowes, home depot, sears hardware and even walmart had it. might be to late in the season to get it now, tho.
by ND farm girl on October 17, 2006 11:03 AM
Do you have a picture of your 'mulched' beds?

Thanks for the needed information!

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by joclyn on October 17, 2006 11:36 AM
i looked (google) for a picture of the mulch...found the website for the company that makes it - the main focus of the website is not the mulch, it's the licorice that they extract from the root - the mulch is just the leftovers after they've done the extraction process, so no pics of the mulch - just a small mention that they sell the roots as mulch.

here are two pics of my beds - not really the best examples since i was focused on the individual plants rather than the whole beds. they are pretty good closeups of the mulch tho!


look to the right side of the pic (the edge of the bed is in the center). the pic was taken about a week after i'd laid down a fresh layer.


this pic was after about a month since i put the mulch out (and i didn't have too thick a layer in this spot) - still has some nice color.

the mulch starts off a rich deep brown/black. as it dries, it retains the brown color - doesn't get grayish like some other types do. and if you give it a quick squirt of water every few days, it'll retain the richer brown color longer. even at the end of the season, it still looks nice.
by tkhooper on October 19, 2006 07:16 PM
I like beauty bark. Probably because my dad used it. And I like the large pieces. It stays in place well keeps its good looks throughout the season and is bio-degradable. The next growing season you won't even know it was there.

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by joclyn on October 20, 2006 12:33 AM
i never heard of that a picture of what it looks like?
by PartyGirl on October 26, 2006 04:33 PM
ND Farmgirl,

Can you get your hands on a lot of leaves, do you have access to a lawnmower, and do you have a little time? If so, spread the leaves on the lawn not quite ankle deep, spray them with the hose, and mow them with the bag on and a wheelbarrow nearby to dump the bag in. Because the leaves are a little wet, they will mow/mulch into very fine pieces. Mulch your entire bed with it and then topdress by putting the licorice roots over the top of the mulched leaves. It will do 2 things -- break down and improve your soil as Joclyn says, but by putting the roots on top of the leaves, they will not break down as fast and you won't have to replace the roots as soon as you would if they were in contact with the soil.

The little leaf pieces in the lawn will also help the lawn, but if they are too big, you need to mow them up so they don't smother the grass.

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by joclyn on October 27, 2006 01:36 AM
good idea, pg!!
by tkhooper on October 27, 2006 04:38 AM
I don't have a picture. Because I'll probably be moving I didn't bother to buy mulch for this winter. I have plenty of leaves and compost left if I wanted to but there is no point.

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by dodge on November 06, 2006 09:54 AM
I have never mulched........

I like to dig my dirt and add rotted manure to it yearly......
Mulch purchased has to be renewed yearly and can come to some fancy dollars.....

However , it is neat.
How do you add fertilizer to mulched soil?/

dodhr [thinker]

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''''Those who live in the Lord Never See Each Other For The Last Time!''''
by joclyn on November 06, 2006 02:33 PM
pull the mulch aside, amend and then push the mulch back over. [grin]
by johnCT on November 06, 2006 08:25 PM
Mulch can be anything. Shredded leaves, grass clippings, etc. It doesn't have to be fancy colored, shredded hardwood. You can spread fertilizer right on top of the mulch.

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John - Zone 6
by dodge on November 06, 2006 08:57 PM
Thanks Jocylyn and John......

I guess I am part time santa claus,, I like to Ho ho ho.......

[scaredy] [gabby] [scaredy]


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''''Those who live in the Lord Never See Each Other For The Last Time!''''
by tkhooper on November 07, 2006 12:05 AM
Or use a water soluable fertilizer.

I have heard that if you have a plant that reseeds you may not want to use mulch. Any ideas on that?

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by johnCT on November 07, 2006 03:13 AM
Well, I guess if you want the self-seeders to multiply a bit it would make sense to pull back the mulch a bit from those plants. Otherwise the mulch might certainly impede the dropped seed's ability to put down roots after germination.

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John - Zone 6
by joclyn on November 07, 2006 03:44 AM
yes, moving the mulch aside so that the seeds can fall directly on the soil makes sense. i guess it depends on what type of mulch you are using (and how quickly it will decompose).

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