The Q&A Archives: Dealing with Last Year's Mulch

Question: Last year we mulched our flowerbeds, about 2 inches deep around all the plants. Now that it is spring, do I rake the old, nasty mulch off the top before putting new on? Or just leave it there? I could never figure out whether "Clean up debris" to prevent pests and mildew included old mulch! It sure looks like debris to me! Joanna Jones State College, PA

Answer: Mulch can solve a number of problems. It can cover soil and form an attractive cover. It can retain moisture in the soil. It can feed the soil. It can help keep weeds under control. If you are growing perennials you can either cover up the old organic mulch or refresh it. If it hasn't fully decomposed, I'd rake away the old before adding the new. If it's mostly decomposed, then just add some new mulch on top.

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