Ask a Question forum: Why is my mulch creating a thick, waterproof layer over my garden?

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PaulFoxNJ
May 20, 2017 8:33 AM CST
This has happened several times, buying cedar mulch from a local respected garden center and over the year, especially over the winter, it creates a thick solid film that is hard to break and is clearly not letting any water through. I will have to remove it all but do not hear of others having this issue. Can anyone explain why this happens so I can avoid it in the future?

Thank you,
Paul
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
May 20, 2017 8:40 AM CST
Do you have an especially wet and/or cold winter? Sounds like your current mulch is getting water logged for whatever reason. I would try a different mulch. My local dirt yard offers straight-up cedar shreds (which I typically use for pathways), and a couple different blends that typically include compost, manure, and sand (I call these black dirt because of the dark color). Maybe get one of the sandier mixes which may work better in your area.
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
May 20, 2017 3:56 PM CST
I am not sure what your winters are like, but sometimes when wood becomes very dry, it is hydrophobic and doesn't want to absorb water. If it dries over the winter, the mulch can settle and act like one big jigsaw puzzle, and can become one big mat of water repelling material. All you need to do is fluff the surface of the mulch to break the barrier.
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
May 20, 2017 4:02 PM CST
PaulFoxNJ,
I see that your screen name has NJ in it but I will not automatically assume you live in New Jersey.
Where is the garden and what type of climate do you have in the winter? Also, did put the mulch directly onto the soil? or did you add a layer of something such as landscape fabric or plastic first? The cedar mulch that you are purchasing - is it bagged mulch or bulk?
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
May 20, 2017 5:27 PM CST
I should also add that I have never seen the jigsaw effect with large chipped mulch or bark nuggets, only with shredded materials.
Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
May 22, 2017 7:05 AM CST
Do you have a pic?
Is this a flower bed?

What do you do with the mulch when you remove it?

I have seen wood mulch form a layer like that, and... You will not see any weeds there... In my experience, it doesnt hurt the existing plants, so... I leave things be...

What seems to be happening is that all the mycelium have everything all glued together, and as those wood mushrooms are extremely beneficial in the garden, maybe stop raking it off.... Breaking those mycellium apart kills them...

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