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What To Do with Old Mulch [3 Ways To Dispose Of]

If you have a giant bed of old mulch sitting in your garden, you would be worried about what to do with this much of it. Mulch is costly and it doesn’t seem to be a good idea to throw it away just like that. So, what are the options you have?

It’s important to realize that your goals play a major role in what you will decide for your old mulch. For instance, if you’re planning to add a new mulch bed around your greenies then figuring where the old mulch will go is vital. Mulch is a costly nutrient but it can also do wonders for your garden. As a gardener, you’re already aware of how beneficial mulching is for plant life. The real question is whether you can still utilize your old mulch or not. Since it is a natural waste that will break down with time, so will its effectiveness in helping other plants in growing. Therefore, it’s vital to examine the health of the mulch bed and see whether it can still be used or not. 

Mulch in garden

Fortunately, it’s possible to repurpose old dead mulch as well, but before we get to that, the current condition of mulch must be examined.

Can your Old Mulch Still Be Used?

Simply grab a handful of mulch and see how much of it has broken down. If it easily stands out from the rest of the dirt through its color and texture, then it’s a sign that it can still serve its original purpose. However, if the mulch has completely broken down into small pieces that can barely be distinguished from the rest of the dirt, then you’ll have to think of another way to utilize it. Don’t worry though, there are a few ways to utilize dead mulch as well. 

Thankfully, mulch can serve its purpose for a good while., but just like every other organic nutrient, it has a decreed lifetime. Old mulch can still be of many benefits if it manages to keep its bits intact. After its particles begin to break down, it slowly starts deteriorating and it’s best to get rid of it, especially if you’re planning to put up a new bed.

Revive Your Old Mulch by Dyeing It

Old faded mulch can be given a new visually pleasing look by being dyed. Consider grabbing a liquid mulch dye that can be sprayed upon an old bed. This product is widely available in gardening shops and it can give your mulch a good look but it cannot fully bring back its abilities. Mulch dye comes in a few different shades such as dark brown, black, and red. Different dyes boast different properties but their core purpose is the same, to give color to faded mulch. All you will need is a garden sprayer along with dye mixed with water to make your garden charming again.  

Liquid mulch dye is a dense material and should be sprayed carefully. Too much of it can damage the mulch as well as the plants. Other than that, just make sure beforehand that the faded mulch is dry and there’s not a rain forecast on the day you plan on dyeing your mulch. Dyed mulch needs a couple of hours to dry before it can get wet again. Otherwise, the entire procedure would be of no use. Also, freshly dyed mulch needs to stay untouched until it fully absorbs the dye. So, make sure your family or pets are nowhere near the dyed mulch until it dries completely. You can check out the product here.

Note that dyed mulch is not disposed of the way you would dispose of regular mulch. Decaying dyed mulch can be harmful to your plants. The dye breaks down into toxic substances and if not disposed of at the right time, can affect your plant’s health negatively. Dyed mulch also should not be added to compost for the aforementioned reasons. To dispose of it, the best way is to pile it up in bags and transport it to your local waste disposal center.

Add Old Mulch into Soil

If the mulch has gotten stale completely and there’s no point in having it around your plants, you can use it as an additional ingredient to the soil. Old mulch should not be directly mixed with it though. It should be added to compost first and mixed with it before making its way into the soil. You might have noticed bits of mulch in organic compost and it’s there for good reasons. There’s not much of a difference between mulch and compost. Mulch is made up of broken-down leaves, wood straws, and other similar plant waste while compost comes from organic food waste. Together, these two can complement each other’s properties and do wonders for the health of your plants.

For optimal results, you have to be sure that mulch is in the final stages of breaking down before it is added to compost. It’s also important to add the right amount of mulch to compost before the mixture is added to the soil. Generally, compost makes up around a third or fourth of soil. Anything more than that is overkill. This is because an ideal soil bed should contain more sand than compost or mulch. It helps in spreading the nutrients at a suitable speed for plants. Also, note that the mulch we’re referring to here is purely organic. Permanent mulch derived from tough materials such as rubber or plastic should never be mixed with compost. 

Remove Your Old Mulch

Removing a mulch layer is a procedure that should be carried out in a span of weeks. This is due to the plants being used to mulch being present on the soil. Getting rid of all of it right away can affect plant growth negatively. Here are the tools you will need to eliminate mulch from your garden:

  • Rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Gloves
  • Shovel
  • Blower (optional)

Begin with using the rake to gather mulch in one place from around your plants. Do not take too much of it away as mentioned previously as it can be harmful to plants. Just a little bit of it laying a few inches away from the plant stem should do the job. Although it sounds difficult, try your best not to disturb any plant’s soil when separating old mulch. Breaking up mulch into smaller bits is easier to rid of in comparison with bigger bits of it. Also, try using your hands when you’re cleaning up in close proximity to the plants or you can use a blower for this purpose. Keeping tools away from plants as much as possible is recommended.

Once you’ve gathered all the mulch, use the shovel to put it into the wheelbarrow. Now you can transport it either into trash bags then put those next to your garbage bin where the garbage truck collects the garbage from. Let them handle the disposal of your mulch. Bear in mind that under no circumstances should you burn your old mulch to dispose of it. Due to the massive volume of mulch and its sensitive combustibility, a mulch fire can get out of control in a matter of minutes. So, burning old mulch is simply out of question. You should also be very careful when smoking cigarettes around mulch.

Dangers of Old Mulch

Removal of very old mulch can become necessary especially in spring when plants thrive. Despite mulch being an important contributor in helping plant growth, it can also cause numerous diseases, fungi, and bacteria that are harmful to plants. In winter, mulch is needed because plants naturally shed off their leaves in the fall to protect the soil from rough weather conditions. Though organic mulch can last for around 5-6 years, several factors can trim that number down. Harsh weather conditions can damage mulch’s ability to safeguard your plants. Moreover, weeds popping out and plants weakening in the presence of mulch is a sign that the mulch isn’t doing its job very well. At this point, it becomes vital to eliminate old mulch. 

Mulch that can bring tons of benefits to your plants can also do a lot of harm. To examine whether the mulch is focusing on the former, all you have to do is keep an eye on the green life. Whether it’s veggies or flower beds, see if the old mulch caused any type of fungi, pathogen, or disease to your plants. If the answer comes in positive, it’s advised to get rid of this mulch and get a new layer. Adding the old one to compost or reviving it is too risky. So, it’s best to say goodbye to it.

Types of Mulch

Generally speaking, mulch comes in several different forms when you buy it. However, our topic at the moment is its ability to break down, which brings us to two main types of mulch. The first one is biodegradable mulch, it usually consists of natural plant remains such as leaves, straws, wood chips, etc. Whereas the second one is hard to decompose as it consists of tough materials such as pebbles, rubber, and plastic. It also becomes useless after around a year as there’s not much that can be done with it. Biodegradable mulch is more useful in the long term as it can serve well for a couple of years.

Plastic mulch and other types of mulch that contain materials that are hard to break down are not considered to be yard waste. As for biodegradable natural mulch, it does fall under the definition of yard waste. This is important to keep in account because yard waste is supposed to be added to designated yard waste bins whenever you’re getting rid of it. Putting plastic or dyed mulch in these bins is a bad idea. This is because yard waste is supposed to be fully organic, and it should not contain artificial waste. 

Can New Mulch be Added on Top of Old?

Many gardeners hesitate to throw away their old mulch beds but as we discussed previously, they should get rid of them once the time comes. However, in a case where your old mulch hasn’t fully broken down, it’s fine to add a completely new layer of mulch on top of it. This must be done under the condition that the new mulch is fully organic. Under the freshly added bed of mulch, the old layer would start to decompose quicker. Gardeners should also take care of the depth and thickness of their new mulch bed. 

It’s a general rule that a mulch layer should not extend beyond 2-3 inches. Since the old one would already be taking up some inches, you have to measure the extra inches that are required to compensate for the absence. An overly thick layer of mulch retains moisture too much and does not let both water and oxygen completely spread throughout the soil. Remember, the goal is to protect the roots from extreme weather and not allow weeds to grow. Hence, it is vital to ensure the layer is neither too thick nor too thin. 


Mulching is a great way to preserve moisture in plants and provide the nutrients your plants need to bloom. The best part is that it can also give your garden the contrast it needs to look fresh. Although the procedure of mulching might seem a bit confusing at first, once you figure out how to mulch properly, the results will fascinate you. For now, we have guided you on what can be done with your old mulch. Hopefully, you learned a thing or two about mulching from this article.

My name is Thomas Anderson, and I have worked briefly as a plumber. Even though I am currently working on a different career path I still help out my friends and family with their plumbing issues. This is a hobby blog where I share my knowledge with the audience through random articles. Through this blog, I hope to address some common questions about garbage disposals.