Using mulched leaves after I've put down wood mulch

lisa2004(NY Z5/6)April 21, 2010

I started the thread "what do I do with all these leaves" and got some great suggestions. I ended up buying an (almost) industrial size blower/mulcher and have managed to make a dent in leaf removal.

So, now that I have this mulcher I am on to the next problem. I really want to use whatever portion of these leaves I can in my gardens. However, about 2 years ago I started putting down decorative mulch. (It's dark brown, not the orange stuff). So, how do I go about mulching with leaves? Do I have to rake all the decorative mulch off, apply the leaf mulch and they reapply the decorative stuff? That would be difficult considering the size and number of gardens. I actually do like a natural look and would be satisfied with the look of the leaves (atleast in the gardens behind my house, in the front I like it a little more formal) but it seems that it would be a never ending project because they break down so easily.

Also, I notice that when I rake back a little of the dec mulch that there is some "mold" there. Does that mean it's doing something helpful for the soil? I'm assuming its chemically treated with something to still look decent.

Thanks for any advice.

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The only reason you might remove that "decorative" wood chip mulch would be if you wanted to. I think shredded leaves are a good looking material to use, but over all a mulch should recede into the background and really not be seen which is what shredded leaves do.
Nothing looks worse, to mine eyes, then a 4 x 4 bed with 1 plant in the middle and surrounded with that ugly bright red dyed waste wood mulch. That offends, greatly.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 7:15AM
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annpatt

If it were me, I'd rake the "decorative" mulch off and apply the leaves. Your decorative mulch takes a long time to break down and nourish your soil. Your leaves will start to break down in six months or less. Why not use the wood stuff out front, since you like the look there, and use the leaves behind the house where you can start building rich soil?

You're going to love the look of a leaf-mulched garden. Congratulations on your score.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 7:53AM
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the_virginian(Zone 7 NoVA)

I would not bother raking ANY wood mulch up, not only is it a waste of effort, you would waste some organic matter that is already benefitial to your beds. Putting shredded leaves over the wood mulch will only help it breakdown faster and naturally. Seriously, don't waste your time raking the old mulch out of your beds as it is a huge waste.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 3:41PM
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kelp

I agree with The Virginian. I'm trying to replace some of my lawn with shrubs and flowers, so whenever I need a new area cleared, I lay down cardboard, then whatever organic material I can get my hands on. One of my neighbors gives me his grass clippings, so that usually goes on first. Last fall, I collected 30 bags of leaves one afternoon, and shredded that, then laid it down over the grass clippings. I've been having a ball all spring, watching various kinds of birds pick through it, looking for bugs. Besides eliminating the need to cut off the sod, by the time I plant an area, the top few inches is actual soil. (Under that, unfortunately, is pure, heavy, clay.) Shredded leaves, raked out evenly, look just as nice as mulch, IMHO.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 6:22PM
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annpatt

Shredded leaves, raked out evenly is mulch. You're putting a fast breaking-down, nourishing mulch on top of a slow breaking-down mulch. It's not the end of the world, but wood mulches just sit around for years before they break down and do any soil feeding. Leaves break down relatively quickly. I add mulching materials year round and I like to use ones that will quickly break down and feed the soil.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 7:56PM
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