6 Signs You Need to Replenish Your Mulch

6 Signs You Need to Replenish Your Mulch

Mulching your flowerbeds is a prudent strategy to keep moisture in the soil and protect the roots of your shrubs, trees, and flower bulbs during the summer and winter. Whether you’re using organic or synthetic mulch for your garden, it eventually needs replacement. Keep reading to learn more about the right time to replenish your mulch.

6 Signs You Need to Replenish Your Mulch

Leaving mulch on the soil too long means it loses its nutrient content and ability to feed the plants and trees. This nutrient depletion results in stunted growth. The soil dries out too quickly after watering, creating dry conditions that damage your plants. Weeds begin to pop up, and the roots of your plants lose protection from the frost and cold weather.

#1 Natural Weathering

The wind and heavy rain will eventually displace the mulch on the soil. Pests can also move mulch around, and local wildlife will expose the soil underneath. If you find bare spots on the soil or if it looks visually deteriorated or displaced, it’s time to replenish your mulch.

#2 Decomposition

Organic mulch decomposes over time due to temperature, rainfall, and soil moisture conditions. The color of the mulch fades over time, signaling nutrient depletion from the material. Eventually, the depletion leads to a total decomposition of the mulch, requiring replacement. If the mulch looks the same color as the soil, it’s time for a fresh layer.

#3 Fungal Infection

Mulch is commonly used to become a breeding ground for fungal pathogens. These fungi spread throughout the spoil and flowerbeds, infecting your plants. Fungal pathogens have an easier time growing and spreading in moist conditions. Conditions such as prolonged rainy weather conditions where they retain moisture.

Most fungal pathogens accelerate the decomposition of the mulch and can make it slimy, reducing airflow to the roots. Replenish your mulch if you notice mushrooms sprouting in the mulch. Leaving mushrooms to proliferate may lead to the spores infecting your shrubs and trees.

#4 Time

Mark your calendar when you apply fresh mulch to the garden. Keep an eye on the flowerbeds at least weekly to track the decomposition of the mulch. The best time to replace mulch is in the spring and fall.

The spring application ensures you lock moisture and regulate the soil, reducing evaporation. The fall application protects the roots from the cold winter conditions. Don’t apply the mulch too early in the spring, as it may limit the growth and spread of the roots.

#5 Weed Growth

If you notice more weeds appearing in your flowerbeds than normal, it’s a sign the mulch is losing its ability to deter weed growth. As the mulch breaks down, weed seeds in the area find it easier to access the soil and light conditions they need to grow.

#6 Poor Plant Nutrition

If you apply a fresh layer of mulch and your plants still struggle to grow, try an alternative mulch material. The mulch might have insufficient moisture-holding properties or be overly decomposed. This reduces the nutrition available to your plants and flowerbeds.

Types of Mulch

Many different types of mulch are available to choose from. Depending on the type of mulch you choose, the time and frequency of mulch replacement may differ. Here are some examples of mulch types:

  • wood chips
  • bark mulch
  • shredded mulch
  • dyed mulches
  • shredded leaves
  • organic or living

How to Replace or Replenish Your Mulch

You have options for organic or synthetic mulch for your garden. If you decide on the natural route, you can add fresh mulch to the top of the old layer. Use a rake to break up the old mulch and aerate it before applying the new layer. Removing grass clippings and excess mulch ensures water and air can get through the old, compacted layer to the roots.

Add 2-3 inches of mulch on top of the old mulch for best results. If your old mulch is infested with fungi, rake it up and bag it. Please don’t throw it on the compost heap as it infects the other organic materials, rendering them useless.

Bag and dispose of the infected mulch per local authority bylaws. Sterilize the ground with anti-fungal gardening spray before adding a fresh layer of mulch.

There’s no issue with disposing of old mulch in the compost heap as long as there are no signs of fungal infection. If you’re using inorganic mulch or synthetic mulch, apply it to other areas of the yard instead of throwing it away.

Synthetics, gravel, and stones might look attractive in other areas of the yard, such as around pathways. Otherwise, consider recycling it instead of just throwing it away.

Mulch Maintenance Schedule


Omaha Tree Services

At Omaha Tree, our mission is to provide tree care services & mulch products that improve the HEALTH, BEAUTY, & SAFETY of our customers’ trees. We recycle all of our wood waste material from the trees we trim and remove in the greater Omaha metro area. The wood waste material is brought back to our 8-acre site at 3606 McKinley Street, where it is processed into a beautiful & consistent mulch product that is local, fresh, and clean. Contact a certified arborist today.