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7 Clever Ways to Use Extra Mulch in Your Garden

7 Clever Ways to Use Extra Mulch in Your Garden

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Have you ordered more mulch than you know what to do with? Fear not, because mulch has multiple uses. You don’t need to overload your shrubs or trees with extra thick layers of mulch, risking their health. There are other practical uses for mulch.

What to Do With Extra Mulch

1 – Store it for when you will need it

Most organic mulches will decompose at a rate of 1” annually so what you have extra this year can be used to replenish the mulch next year. However, you need to store it correctly to prevent the mulch from going bad. How you store it depends on how much extra mulch you have.

For small amounts, you can store them in garden bags by poking some holes in the bag to allow for airflow.

Storing large amounts of mulch is best done outdoors by sandwiching the mulch between two tarps. One on the base to prevent the mulch from decomposing into the soil, and another tarp over the top to keep it dry. Leave some edges open slightly to allow air to flow through.

Even if you feel you won’t need THAT much extra mulch EVER, it’s worth considering storing it for use as a weather blanket in extreme weather conditions. A thick layer of four-inch mulch over sensitive plants can protect them against harsh weather conditions, such as freezing temperatures in the winter, or scorching heat in the summer.

In the summer months, extra layers of mulch around the roots of plants help to absorb moisture and prevent extreme heat from direct sunlight from scorching the roots. Likewise, in the winter months, a thick mulch blanket helps the soil retain warmth, protecting against freezing.

2 – Depending on the type of mulch, you can use to fill trenches made by pets

Dogs will be dogs and will patrol the fence line. Sometimes, at speed. The faster they run around the yard, the more dirt they’ll kick up, and the more of a trench will become established. It may take years to become pronounced, but it will, eventually. When it does, you can fill trenches with mulch to level it off.

Just be sure that the mulch you use is pet-friendly. Where pets are running free, avoid any chemically treated mulch, or those made from recycled materials, such as shredded wood from old pallets that may have been painted.

Also, if you know your dog chews on sticks, make sure wood chips are small enough that they don’t pose a choking hazard. Generally, the safest mulch where pets are patrolling is large rocks.

3 – Mulch over seeds on slopes

Any sloping areas in your yard can benefit from a layer of mulch as a way to protect against soil erosion. However, much more beneficial is to use it as a temporary stabilization method for seed germination.

You can mulch over seeds and use plants to help prevent the soil from eroding. The reason plants work best on slopes is because the roots help bind the soil, therefore, there’s less risk of rainfall washing the soil downhill.

Of course, for it to be effective, you need an anchoring strategy to keep mulch in place on a slope. Otherwise, your efforts will be wasted as the mulch and any seeds you plant will scatter.

4 – Use it to make a DIY path

DIY mulch paths are the easiest to install. Remember this: a 4-inch layer of mulch suppresses weeds. So that’s the ideal thickness of a pathway you’ll want if you’re using only mulch.

How big a path you can install depends on how much extra mulch you have. Still, a short amount may be enough to install a mulch path to the side of a garden shed, giving you something to suppress weeds, and an area you can use to walk around to inspect the shed and do any repair work required.

To make it even easier, use no-dig landscape edging to save you from having to excavate about an inch of soil to lay the weed membrane before laying down the mulch for the pathway.

To extend the life of it and make it easier to manage, combine mulch with stone pavers. That way, you can use the mulch to suppress weeds, and as decorative landscape material, while using the stones to walk on.

Pathways can be established with organic and inorganic mulch materials so if you have extra organic mulch and a stash of old mulch (inorganic or organic) needing upcycled, mix the two for a longer-lasting pathway.

5 – Use it for sheet mulching any weedy areas

Sheet mulching is what gardeners refer to as smothering patches of land to kill off weeds. It can also be used to get rid of any plant you’re having problems eliminating from your yard, such as creeping ivy, rhubarb, and Japanese Honeysuckle – all invasive species that are hard to restrict to one section of your yard.

This type of “killing mulch” method is done by laying down an organic weed suppressant such as newspaper and cardboard, then dumping up to 4 inches of mulch over the paper and cardboard.

Without light getting through to the roots of plants, they’ll die. However, some plants can be super hardy, surviving for months. For best results, after sheet mulching, avoid disturbing any of it for up to six months.

Keep an eye on the patch for any weeds managing to break through and pull them out. As the mulch decomposes, it’ll feed nutrients back into the soil. You can top it up the following year, or use it to establish a new vegetable patch or flower bed.

6 – If you can’t use it, try donating or selling it

Anyone with a garden that has trees, shrubs, or plants will need mulch. They may not even know they need it.

Have a look around your neighborhood and see if any plants, shrubs, or trees could do with mulching, and offer it for free. Most people will appreciate the offer, but will not take kindly to being sold to.

If you plan to sell mulch that you don’t need, advertise it. Offer it on marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Preloved, or Craigslist. You can also offer it free for local collection if you don’t want to be hassled with having to transport a heavy haul of mulch.

7 – Compost it if you really can’t use it or store it

One last option you have to make sure your excess mulch gets put to some kind of use is to add it to your compost pile or bin. Naturally, it’s only practical with organic mulches as rubber mulch and stones won’t decompose. Wood chips, straw, and similar organic mulches will.

The only drawback with bark chips is the size. The larger the wood chips are, the longer they’ll take to break down. It will help to sift through your chips to segregate the small chips from the larger ones. You can store the larger wood chips somewhere dry to add to your compost next year.

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