Ready to Seed - What do I do with mulch?

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Just me, Jan 13, 2009.

  1. Just me

    Just me Member

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    victoria, bc, canada
    This past fall I rototilled a grassy, weedy area, and mulched it with several inches of oak leaves - both to suppress weeds, and add organic matter.

    I want to broadcast seed some flower and vegetable seeds this spring. I doubt that the seeds would grow well in oak leaves. What do I do with the mulch?:
    - turn it under?
    - leave it in place and add a few inches of soil/peat on top for planting?
    - turn it under and top dress with a few inches of soil/peat to smother grass and weed seeds.

    Thoughts and suggestions would be much appreciated,

  2. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Toronto, Ontario
    I'd turn it under and top-dress.
  3. greengarden bev

    greengarden bev Active Member

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    SW Ontario, Canada
    Hmmm. I've been thinking about this question and I keep coming back to your comment "broadcast flower and vegetable seeds". I can understand broadcasting for a wildflower garden or a garden with re-seeding annuals, but very few vegetable seeds will do well without being started with the proper soil cover and protection from competition from weeds and fast-growing annual flowers.

    Anyway, thats just my two cents and it doesn't answer your question.

    Here's the main principle from my POV: leaf mulch belongs on top of the soil where it can do its job of smothering weeds, keeping the soil cool and moist, and decomposing slowly and naturally. Every fall the trees drop leaf mulch everywhere, on top of the soil, and Nature's been doing okay for a few billion years with this method. If you want to add OM to the soil, I'd dig in some compost, not oak leaves.

    Anyway, let's say you want a flower garden with seeds that are okay being broadcast-- something informal, wildflowers, reseeding "cottage" annuals, "meadow" plants, that kind of thing.

    Many of these types of flowers like the soil lean and mean-- not too much fertility, often gritty or sandy. So I wouldn't worry too much about adding organic matter to improve the soil.

    The real challenge will be to deal with the weed competition. Remove that mulch (either by turning it under or raking it off) and you're going to have a weed fest happening.

    You can try planting in "stripes". As soon as the ground can be worked in the spring, remove the mulch in 12"-wide sections from your area, leaving 8 or 12" of mulched walkway in between. Let the weeds do their thing and hand pull or hoe them down as they sprout. Keep doing this until planting time, to remove as much of the "seed bank" as possible. Then broadcast your seeds. By this time you should be able to recognize the weed seedlings, so you can continue weeding by hand if you like.

    When you've got your planting established you can put back some mulch around any perennials. Eventually over the years the oak leaf mulch in the walkways will break down, and the re-seeding flowers will move in. Or stoloniferous ones may move in. In any case, those mulched strips will eventually meld with your garden and you'll have a meadow of sorts.

    I'm on a five year (ten year?) plan to eradicate grass monoculture from our acre, and this is the method I'm going to use this spring. Up until now I've been digging proper beds for mixed borders. But there's WAY too much land to keep doing this, and my back is already protesting.

    Good luck with your planting.

    - Bev

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