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Can You Plant After You Mulch? Here’s how and The Benefits

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Mulching is a protective covering placed on the soil around plants to keep them safe from weeds and pests. 

Mulching has many benefits in the garden, but can you plant after you mulch? 

Planting over mulch can be done by clearing the desired area, exposing the soil with a hole 3 – 4 inches deep into which the plant is sown. New plants over mulch will help prevent mulch loss from erosion from heavy rains and discoloration from direct sunlight.

In this article, we will explain the different things to keep in mind when planting after you mulch and the benefits it can have. 

If you need to replenish your old mulch, here’s a good option that I have tried and tested and it comes at a great price.
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Is It Ok To Plant After You Mulch?

planting after you mulch

Mulching covering is mainly made up of straws, plastic sheets, or bark chips. It helps plants from stressful environments like freezing roots in winters, and reduces evaporative loss of water. 

Organic mulches encourage beneficial soil worms and microorganisms’ growth.

Planting over mulch minimizes the effects of erosion caused by rains and discoloration from sunlight.

Most gardening techniques suggest planting before spreading the mulch. This technique works well for new areas. 

Suppose you already have an established garden, then no worry. Planting after the mulch has already been applied can also be done. 

The planting technique after Mulching involves loosening the underlying 3 -4 inches of soil, placing the plant in the hole, and then filling in the root ball.

Planting over mulch minimizes the effects of erosion caused by rains and discoloration from sunlight.

Planting in mulch that has already been laid can also help keep it in place when it rains, as the new plants can protect the mulch from heavy rains and erosion.

See our detailed post on how to prevent mulch from washing away.

Additionally, sunlight can impact mulch when exposed. The UV light will quickly cause discoloration as well as unwelcomed heating, which can cause the mulch to break down more quickly over time.

Can Old Mulch Affect New Plants?

Old mulch usually does not produce any problems with plant growth. You can leave it until you observe a decay or decomposition. 

Fungal growth in it or diseased plants surrounded by mulch could be the reason for its change.

Old mulch forms a hard cake surface upon overwatering.

Plants retain excess water and air due to improper decomposition. This leads to their choking. 

The presence of an excessive amount of mulch around the plant creates a “volcano.” effect. 

Volcanoes supply direct water to the bark. After entering the plant bark, water suffocates the phloem. As a result, the water and food supply to the plants decrease. 

Ultimately leaf shedding and premature plant death occurs.

If you want to add new mulch with the old one, then fluffing of old mulch will be a good option. In this way, it will not pile up and retain water.

Can you Plant Over Old Mulch?

Yes you can, but it is better when it’s mixed into the soil and new mulch is added after planting, here’s why.

Old much is still a blessing, if not decomposed or infected. Mulch can be reused for healthy plant growth.

Just examine your soil and assess its condition as it is essential in determining how much organic matter and amendments it may need to keep it in a healthy state.

Old mulch can be mixed in with soil to help increase the soil’s organic matter. The aerobic decomposition of the mulch by the bacteria and microorganisms will add beneficial nutrients to the soil for the plants while building a healthy soil structure and increasing drainage and aeration for the plant’s roots.

This process usually takes somewhere between 2 to 6 months depending on the soil’s condition and population of microorganisms.  

You can also add compost in annual flower beds or vegetable garden beds. Till it under or onto the soil. Now, you can place old mulch back onto the planting bed. 

See our detailed article on mixing old mulch into soil.

Should You Plant Before or After Mulching?

Should you plant before or after mulching? The short answer is both.

The right way to do things varies by plant and soil type. For instance, some plants, such as shrubs and perennials, should be planted into a mulched bed, after it has been amended with compost, other organic matter, and other beneficial amendments. 

These plants grow best in soils with nutrient pockets built into them for easy access by roots.

In fact, planting a tree in a newly mulched area is preferable because the tree will also get extra nitrogen from decomposing mulch to help build strong roots.

However, for most plants. planting before mulching is preferred in every way. After mulching, digging out the hole and planting a plant would be a complicated process. 

A combination of organic mulch and compost is best for gardening. 

The mulching depth around the plant should be approximately 3-4 inches. 

A mulching level less than the given depth will be less effective in controlling weed growth prevention and maintaining the moisture content. If mulch is too deep, it will deprive plants of water and air. 

Plants like peonies will not be able to grow if over-mulched. Care is mandatory in applying a mulch.

Note: Plant perennials or bulbs after you mulch the area around them. The mulch will help the new plants establish themselves without drying out too quickly under the hot summer sun. 

It will also assist to keep the weeds at bay until the new plantings have grown into a competitive size.

Can You Plant Flowers in Mulch?

If you have already spread mulch in your garden, you can still change it according to your desire because it provides more benefits to the flowerbed than its attractive look. 

It helps in reducing soil moisture loss by evaporation. 

Some flowers do need much watering in hot weather. It holds water and keeps soil wet, in such a way decreasing excess water. 

Mulch provides due support in insulating roots from extreme temperatures. Weed competition for nutrients is also denied by mulch, and a flower grows reasonably.

Types of Mulches:

Mainly two types of mulches are used ;

Organic Mulches:

Organic mulches are a vital component in any garden. These mulches are made from plants that are organically grown and processed – consisting of dried leaves, lawn clippings, straws, etc.  

Organic mulches help build and maintain healthy soil by adding organic matter, retaining moisture, reducing erosion, minimizing weeds, feeding the soil, improving soil structure, increasing microbial activity, and preventing the long-term decline of soil fertility. 

Inorganic Mulches:

Inorganic mulches are man-made materials used to cover the soil. They prevent weeds from growing, conserve moisture, and release soil fertilizers gradually in a plant’s rooting zone. 

They also improve the soil structure, help control the amount of sunlight a plant receives, and keep a consistent soil temperature.

These are heavier and denser but a bit expensive. Don’t allow movement or easy growth to the plant. Shredded rubber, and decomposed granites are examples. 

The granite layer can be 1 – 2 inches deep and works well.

Method For Planting a Flower:

The exact process as plants you can use for flower plantation. Just keep 1-3 inches of space between the mulch and flower stem.

Will Plants Grow Through Mulch?

Plants will grow through the mulch. However, the growth depends upon the mulch type and condition. 

The plastic mulches can achieve the double-cropping effect without any loss in yearly yields. Clear mulch is most effective for the growth of warm-season vegetable crops.

Many studies from the American Horticulture system show increased organic production using different mulches. 

However, the mulch layer can slow the growth of plants like weeds. A thick layer of mulch reduces the germination rates of weed seeds.

Plastic and fabric mulch can be very effective in keeping weeds out of the garden, but can also be a headache when it’s time to be removed.

See our article on how to remove landscaping fabric mulch from soil.

The Takeaway

Mulching is essential and beneficial for the growth of plants. You can plant both before and after mulching. Types of mulch used and the depth of mulch matter a lot for better results. 

Mulching is essential to organic gardening and can save time when planting. It is especially helpful in woodland gardens, where it helps the plants establish roots more quickly. 

Beets, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes — you can grow these all in the same bed with a few special techniques. 

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