>After battling weeds as tall as my irises last summer, I'm ready to
>mulch my mixed perennial border. But... how does one deal with mulch?
>First, should I wait until I recognize what's growing and then mulch
>around it, or must I redo the whole border?
I add mulch every year to my perennial beds and I usually wait for
things to emerge. I weed first, then fluff the existing mulch, and
add more to freshen it up. So no, you do not have to redo the whole
border unless you want to, anyway.
>My border is very young (read: sparse). Will mulch let my plants
>expand and multiply?
Mulch feeds the organisms in the soil. Microbes and
macrobes...beneficial fungi, bacteria, bacterium...and worms. In that
regard, yes, mulch will certainly help expand and multiply your
>I read in an earlier message (from Dan Sterner) that the mulch can be
>removed in the fall, so that the soil will warm up more quickly in the
I don't know that Dan said that, but I would correct that statement to
read; mulch can be pulled back in spring so soil will warm up more
quickly. But, nobody does this pulling back of mulch in the forest,
and the trees leaf out pretty much on schedule. If you warm the soil
too early, you are forcing plants to emerge, then if you get a late
frost, you can lose them. So, I would strongly weigh whether or not I
chose to move mulch back to force earlier growth.
Am I right in assuming that some types (i.e. leaves, grass
>clippings, etc.) could be tilled under? How does one do that without
>disturbing the perennials?
You don't have to till any of it under. Simply start a compost pile,
or look up the term "sheet composting." Either way, the worms will
drag the organic matter down into soil for you. For this reason I do
not recommend the use of these landscape fabrics between soils and the
mulch layer. It prevents worms from carrying down the mulches, which
feed the soil, which feed the plants.
>And, as a matter of fact, how DOES one amend a perennial bed without
>disturbing the flowers? My experience is limited to annuals, and
>double-digging seems like a bad idea for a perennial bed.
>Confused in Ottawa (Zone 4b)
Use partially finished or completely finished compost as your first
layer of mulch. Gently rake it into the top inch of soil. Most
plants, including trees have their feeder roots near the surface of
soil. This is another reason why mulches are beneficial. It will
keep the soil moist and cool in heat of summer so those feeder roots
do not get too hot or dry. You can use many types of mulch, but
shredded native hardwood seems to last longest, and does not matt down
or float away in heavy rains. If you still have confusion, please
feel free to ask more questions. I hope I helped.