what to do with winter mulch

Asked March 10, 2016, 6:10 AM EST

For the first time, I left chopped up leaves as mulch on vegetable and flower gardens over the winter. Now what do I do with it as I get ready to 1. plant seeds in the vegetable garden (they are raised beds, 2 years old and filled with a 50/50 compost and topsoil mix) and 2. get the beds ready for the perennials to come up? Do I remove it, work it into the soils....or what? Thank you!

Howard County Maryland

1 Response

The leaves will probably not be decomposed enough to work into the soil when you get ready to plant (cold winter temperatures slow down decomposition.) Generally, gardeners want to continue using the mulch to suppress weeds anyway. For the vegetable garden, merely pull the mulch away from the proposed seed row. Prepare the seed row and seed as usual. After the seeds germinate and have some size, you can pull the mulch back up to the plants to keep down weeds. In the perennial bed, leave the mulch between plants but not on them. Big robust plants will burst right through 2-3" of leaf mulch because it's so light and fluffy, but younger ones and ones that dislike moisture should not have mulch on them or touching their base. Pull it away from those plants.