Old mulch can be reused and recycled, depending on the kind. Old wood mulch is one of the best materials to use as a soil amendment.

bark mulchBy mixing mulch with soil, soil nutrient is replenished and makes the soil healthier. In the following article, as you read, you will read all about how you can use old mulch, dispose old mulch, and even refresh old mulch.

What To Do with Old Much?

There are two kinds of mulch: one is organic mulch, and the other is inorganic mulch. However, what you can do with using old mulch, is you can use it, you can recolor it, recycle in a decomposed old organic mulch and even dispose them.

– Identify Organic Mulch

This mulch is made from organic sources, or materials that once were alive, such as bark, old wood chips, and leaves. These materials decompose over time and are easily absorbed into the soil, giving back much-needed nutrients.

In oder to determine the inorganic mulch, it is through the materials found in inorganic mulch consist of manufactured materials, such as plastic, rubber, landscape fabrics, stones, rocks, and gravel. These are considered as non-biodegradable and contribute little to soil health and nutrient replenishment.

As for the organic mulch, the first thing to do is check the mulch. If the material still looks like mulch, it can still be reused. You can leave the mulch alone at this stage. If the material already looks like dirt, then it no longer serves its purpose as a mulch.

In this condition, you can check if there are smells. If the decomposed mulch smells like vinegar, rotten eggs, or even alcohol, the material is not usable unless it is rinsed and then dried.

When the mulch shows signs of fungus, insects, or parasites, then this is the time to remove old mulch to prevent possible disease spread and contamination.

– Reuse Your Old Organic Mulch

When your old mulch has not yet decomposed to a dirt-like texture, you can reuse it. Simply loosen the old layer of mulch with a rake before adding a fresh layer.

Make sure that the total depth does not exceed three to four inches. If you make your layer of mulch any deeper, you are risking fungus, pest infestation, root rot, and other forms of decay.

– Recolor Faded Old Organic Mulch

When old mulch has faded or has lost some of its color, this is an indication that the mulch was most likely colored. If the mulch is kept in good condition, you can let the natural color be. However, if you prefer to regain the original color, there are commercial mulch dyes available. 

You can do the following environmentally safe dye projects for your old mulch, using carbon or charcoal mulch dye can be used to restore black colored mulch. Simply prepare the dye mix according to the instructions on the product and apply as needed.

Additionally, vegetable-based colorants can be used to dye old mulch. These are environmentally safe and simple to apply. All you need to do is just follow the package instructions and apply. Lastly, iron oxide dyes are perfect to make faded organic mulch reddish in color.

– Recycle Decomposed Old Organic Mulch

Natural decomposed organic mulch is a wonderful addition to composts and even as a soil amendment. It can be a bit complicated when you dye organic mulch as the dyes could interfere with the microorganisms present in compost bins or even in the soil. This is why you should try to keep your organic mulch as dye-free as possible.

When used properly, decomposed organic mulch can help your plants by acting as a supplemental fertilizer. It should be noted that old wood mulch should be placed in the compost prior to adding them in the soil. When old wood mulch is mixed directly into the soil, they will compete with your plants for nitrogen.

– Dispose of Your Old Organic and Inorganic Mulch

When composting old organic mulch is not an option, you can still dispose of them safely. This option is best when you do not have the resources to compost them or your old organic mulch has been dyed.

Simply bag your mulch and bring the bag or bags to the local waste management facilities in your area. Refrain from burning old organic mulch as it is a combustible material and can easily become the cause of accidental fires in your residence.

For inorganic mulch, such as black plastic tarps, landscape fabrics, rubber mulch, and metallic mulch, contact the nearest local waste management facilities.

They should be able to provide help in safely disposing of your inorganic mulch. Do not dispose of them on your own as they could leach chemicals into the surrounding areas.


What Are the Cost-Effective Types of Organic Mulch?

Not all mulch are made of the same materials. Some have one material, while others may have two or more mixed in. Here are some common materials found in organic mulch mixes:

– Tree Parts

The parts of a tree can be used in organic mulch. Wood chips, shredded bark, and leaves are popular organic mulch materials from trees.

If you prefer to cut down on costs, you can contact your local utility company or your local tree care agency for wood chips or shredded bark. As a way to recycle old Christmas trees, you can chop down the tree for mulch.

If you have trees on your property, you can cut down their dead parts to make mulch. Use the leaves, barks, and even the stems and trunks to shred them and create a mulch mix full of nutrients.

You can use the shredded leaves and wood chips anywhere in your property as mulch. It is best to refrain from placing mulch made from wood chips in annual flower or vegetable beds. The annual nature of these plants mean that you will have to dig through these beds every year and it can be tiresome.

Using your own organic mulch mix will cost very little except for a little time and some effort on your part. All you need to do is ensure that your tree parts are free from toxic chemicals and pests before you turn them into mulch.

– Grass Clippings

This is another material for your organic mulch that you can get for very little to no cost. Remember that grass clippings are great sources of natural fertilizer. By using grass clippings from mown lawns, you get to enjoy free fertilizers right from your own yard.

You can collect grass clippings every time you mow your lawn and apply them as mulch on your flower and vegetable beds. Grass clippings offer great amounts of nitrogen into your soil, encouraging your plants to produce healthier leaves and roots.

– Straw and Hay

The combination of straw and hay makes your flower and vegetable beds look organically good. Not only does your garden become more aesthetic, but the straw and hay mulch encourages moisture in the soil, provides a source of organic nutrients, and keeps weeds from growing. 

Ensure that your straw and hay mulch is free from seeds and weeds. This is crucial, because if seeds and weeds are present in your mulch, you will end up with more issues than usual.

Additionally, refrain from piling up your straw and hay mulch up to the stems or trunks of your plants and trees. Doing so can encourage pests, such as rodents and slugs, to climb up your plants and damage them.

What Are the Types of Inorganic Mulch?

There are five basic types of inorganic mulch. Although they do little to provide nutrient replenishment to the soil, they make up for it by being highly effective.

– Gravel, Pebbles, and River Rocks

Mulch composed of rocks, pebbles, or gravel are great methods to control the presence of weeds. This type of inorganic mulch prevents soil compaction and is very difficult to displace.

Some common materials include volcanic rock, river rocks, marble chips, gravel, and pebbles. A six to twelve inches of gravel layer reduces moisture, making the area less hospitable to pests, such as roaches and termites.

– Black Plastic Tarp

A layer of black polyethylene tarp helps prevent weeds in flower and vegetable beds. The black plastic tarp also increases the warmth of the soil for a better spring season. Gardeners normally cut some holes in the black plastic tarp to allow air and moisture flow and pile organic mulch on top.

– Landscape Fabric

Also known as geotextiles, landscape fabrics suppress weeds and encourage air and moisture flow at the same time. Landscape fabrics stay strong against soil compaction and do not decompose easily, making many gardeners preferring them over black plastic tarps.

– Shredded Rubber

Made of shredded rubber, this type of inorganic mulch is sturdy, stable, and can stand up to harsh weather. A layer of one or two inches of recycled rubber tires can help improve moisture retention in soils, reduce wind erosion, and promote soil warmth during winter.

Some rubber mulches are even dyed to imitate the appearance of tree barks. You just need to be careful that there might be certain chemicals in the rubber that may leak into your soil and inhibit plant growth.

– Reflective Metallic Sheets

Made of polyethylene sheets coated with a thin layer of reflective aluminum coat, this type of inorganic mulch repels pests while encouraging moisture retention in soils. Popular in agricultural farms, reflective metallic sheet mulch is slowly becoming more common in urban farm gardens.

human hand with a pile of mulch


Does old mulch serve as good fertilizer?

Old mulch can provide some nutrients to soil but may not be as effective as traditional fertilizers.

Should you remove old mulch every year?

It’s recommended to remove old mulch every year to prevent buildup and improve soil aeration.

Does old mulch turn into soil?

Old mulch can break down and mix with soil over time, but it’s not a substitute for quality soil amendments.


Disposing of old mulch can be confusing for new gardeners. With this article, you now have a better grasp on what to do with your old mulch.

Let’s go over what you need to do with old mulch:

  • Check your organic mulch to see if they still look like mulch. If they still do, you can add more mulch on top of them, approximately three to four inches thick in total.
  • A lot of mulch mixes are dyed to achieve a certain color. If you want to regain the look of faded old mulch, you can apply some mulch dye to make your mulch look better.
  • Compost your old organic mulch and add it later as a fertilizer or as a soil amendment.
  • Composting old organic mulch may not be an option for you, so you can call your local waste management facility for help in disposing of your old organic mulch.
  • Similarly, you can call the same local waste management facility for instructions or for assistance in disposing of your old inorganic mulch.

Now that you know what to do with old mulch, your confidence in your gardening and mulching skills will definitely increase.

We hope this article has proven that you can do so many things with your old mulch and that you now have more ideas on what to use for mulch. Here’s to having even better gardening adventures!

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