Can You Put Soil on Top of Mulch? (Reasons to do so)

Topsoil benefits plants by providing more nutrients, improving drainage and drought resistance, and promoting plant health. The benefits of mulch are many, including providing nutrients to plants and protecting them from weeds. 

Adding mulch to your garden can reduce water loss, control weed growth, protect your plants from rodents and parasitic bugs, and supply more nutrients to the soil. But have you heard about the addition of soil to an existing layer of mulch? This gardening technique has benefits, but you must do it properly to reap them. 

Can you put soil on top of mulch? What are the reasons to add soil on top of mulch, and how does it work? If you are asking these questions, you want to improve your gardening conditions, and this article can help. So, don’t go anywhere! 

Do You Put Mulch on Top of the Soil? 

Yes, you can put mulch on top of the soil, but you must adopt certain principles or guidelines to do it right. If there is an imbalance of soil and mulch, this may affect the plants and garden conditions and therefore defeat the purpose. 

As with gardening and many other practices, following guidelines and applying moderation is crucial to get the best results. 

Adding mulch on top of the soil is beneficial because it is a source of nutrients. It also helps with maintenance; you will have fewer reasons to water your plants because it encourages moisture retention. It also ensures an adequate and steady supply of the required nutrients. 

However, mulching is most prevalent in households where the landscape is less than suitable for erosion control

You put mulch on top of the soil for these reasons and more. There are many mulch options, including organic and inorganic mulch. 

Organic mulch examples include grass clippings, wood chips, straw, and the famous compost or black gold. 

On the other hand, examples of inorganic mulch are gravel, polyester covers, and landscape fabric. But again, it is easy to choose the organic option because it is better for your plants, the soil, and the environment.

Reasons to Add Soil on Top of the Mulch 

Before getting into why you should consider adding soil on top of mulch, it’s vital to understand the kind of soil and mulch that you’ll be working with. You can’t just pick your ordinary soil. 

If the landscape is less than suitable for planting because of erosion tendencies, you can add soil on top of the mulch. But this does not mean everyone with a garden cannot reap the benefits. A sloping yard may be a problem in the monsoon season, so the primary reason is to protect plants from unfavorable water conditions. 

The ideal soil is new soil or topsoil. Light, sandy soil is the best type of soil to put on top of mulch because it allows water to penetrate fast to reach the plant roots or seeds. If you’ve clay soil, you can improve its texture by mixing it with sandy soil or adding organic matter. 

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You can add soil on top of mulch for the following reasons. 

1. To Improve Soil Structure and Increase Nutrient Content 

Topsoil is rich in much-needed nutrients, and the existing soil will welcome the idea. The technique is especially beneficial when growing plants that require lots of nutrients.

So, because mulching also serves the same purpose, adding an inch of topsoil over mulch is one of the easiest ways to rejuvenate the soil and make your plants happy for better results. 

What’s more, in sandy gardens, adding dark-colored topsoil over mulch in your beds makes the rather cold soil warm in the early months of spring. 

2. To Keep the Mulch in its Place 

Your mulching materials, especially organic mulches, are susceptible to being blown away in areas with strong winds, while heavy rains can also wash them away. Add a layer of soil on top of it, and that’s a forgotten problem.

3. To Improve the Drainage of the Area 

The new soil holds water preventing it from running off, more so when you apply light mulch such as compost. Therefore, because the mulch promotes drainage, you create a perfect combo when you put new soil over your mulching materials. 

4. To Smother Weeds 

In itself, mulching is one of the methods of keeping your garden free from weeds. Mulching materials deny weed seeds lying in the ground access to light. So what happens when you put soil on top of it? You increase its efficiency as mulching alone is not 100% effective. 

How to Put New Soil on Mulch? 

Adding soil to mulch without regulating the quantity can lead to a build-up and entrapment of nitrogen, depriving your plants of much-needed nutrients. It may also encourage the growth of bacteria, which will inevitably affect your plants. 

To put new soil on mulch without affecting the quality of the soil and plants, do the following:

Check the Moisture Content 

Mulch mustn’t be too wet or too dry to avoid defeating the purpose of its application. If too much water is in it, it becomes palatable for bacteria growth. There are many downsides to having bacteria in the soil and around your plants.

In the same vein, if the mulch is too dry, it creates an unsuitable environment. However, dry wood chips are a different story entirely. 

Check the Mulch Quantity 

The amount of mulch you add to the soil is also essential. Since you are adding soil to already-laid mulch, it is best to reduce it to an inch to avoid complications. If there is an imbalance, nitrogen will be challenging to access for the plants.

Typically, mulch should cover the soil by no more than two to four inches. An excessive amount will deprive the soil of water. In contrast, too little will defeat the purpose. 

The sweet spot is an inch. Remove the excess. 

Mix 

Do this carefully without applying too much pressure. This is to avoid disturbing the soil’s air pockets and moisture levels. So, it is best to gently pat the new layer of soil into the existing mulch. 

Add Some Water

Yes, it needs some water, but not too much. Keep an eye on the soil and plants for signs of water deprivation. The structure cakes when there is insufficient water, and you can find out the density by poking a gloved finger or sticking it gently into the ground.

mulching-around-a-tree

How Much Soil Should You Add on Top of the Mulch? 

Add only an inch of soil to mulch, which is also one layer. If you need to reduce the amount already laid down, do so. You will want to keep the two materials within the same proportion so that the purpose is not defeated. 

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When adding mulch to your garden, you must be careful about balance. Mulch is beneficial because it supplies moisture where necessary and serves as a protective barrier for the soil. Therefore, there should be a thin layer between the soil and the surface. 

Now, you will defeat the purpose if you add too much soil because you will either lose the protective layer created or your plants will be unable to reach the nutrients they need adequately. 

So, your layer of mulch should be an inch high. The same applies to the layer of soil. After patting gently, you create an environment that supplies your plants’ needs.

How to Put the New Soil on Mulch?

The best time to put the new soil on mulch is before you start to grow plants, preferably in early spring. It gives the soil ample time to settle and warm in readiness for plant roots. Alternatively, you can do it in the fall when preparing for spring planting. 

And before putting the new soil on mulch, first ensure the mulch is fresh, aerated, and thin. It also shouldn’t be too warm or wet. 

If the mulch is wet (it smells like manure), mix it and leave it in the open air until ready. Otherwise, it can attract bacteria by trapping moisture. On the other hand, if the mulch is dry, you can sprinkle water to ensure it’s slightly damp when you touch it with a finger. 

Also, avoid applying chemicals, including fertilizers and herbicides, to the soil. They can potentially harm your plants when they leach into the ground. 

For better results, follow the steps below. 

Step 1.

Do the normal mulching for the plants you’re covering. But because you’ve to ensure about a one-inch layer, scrap away the excesses with the help of a rake or shovel. 

Step 2.

Add a one-inch layer of the new soil over the mulch. Use top soil which is enriched and works for all plants. 

Step 3.

Press your new soil into the mulch gently using the back of the shovel. Patting it with your hands will also suffice. This trick helps create a compact combo of the soil and mulch that winds cannot blow away. However, be keen not to press too hard – it can lead to poor drainage and prevent oxygen from entering the soil. 

Step 4.

The last step is to water the soil and mulch regularly – according to the plant’s needs – to settle the soil and ensure it sticks to the mulch. If the new soil gets dry, it will start cracking, and even if the plants do not need water, water it. 

If you have little time to go through those steps, you can add new soil on mulch using a less-detailed approach: You just mix the mulch and the soil, water it, and spread it over the area you’re covering. This approach may, however, be less effective. 

Why Do People Put Mulch Under the Soil? 

Gardeners put mulch under the soil primarily for protection. It can also be to improve the quality of nutrients and other environmental factors for the plants and the soil. There are different types of mulch, and your plants’ requirements will determine the one you choose. Here are the major reasons people put mulch under the soil: 

Nutritive Source 

If you use organic mulch, which is the best option for any garden, it will supply additional nutrients to the soil and plants. A good example is an compost mix – this is a way to kill two birds with a stone. 

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You improve the quality of your soil and plants and protect the environment from pests, weeds, and erosion. 

Wood chips will also supply nutrients to the soil and plants. 

Better Moisture Control 

Wood mulch is good for moisture control because it prevents fast evaporation on sunny days. It also prevents excess water from accessing the soil and plants in erosion-prone areas. 

Through temperature control, the right quantity of moisture can also be maintained in the soil. Leaving enough mulch above the surface of your soil will delay evaporation and encourage natural water retention. 

Improved Aeration  

Mulch will also improve the oxygen access of your soil and plants because it keeps the environment moist and cool. Again, temperature control, one of the primary benefits of mulching, can ensure proper drainage and adequate air pockets in the soil. 

Temperature Control 

On sunny days, mulch will protect your plants. On rainy days, it cools the soil. The temperature of the soil is everything because it determines how well your plants will thrive. 

Structure Maintenance 

Structure maintenance extends from preventing an overgrowth of weeds to protecting the soil and plants from erosion. If your garden is sloping, chances are you don’t anticipate the monsoon season because of aftermaths like erosion. 

Well, mulch has you covered, and there is no pun intended!

Can You Put Soil Over Wood Chips?

No, you cannot put soil over wood chips because of the nature of this type of mulch. Wood chips have a denser structure compared to other options like compost mix. In other words, they are heavier than the soil, so adding a layer of soil on top of wood chips will provide an additional weight that may not be good for your seedlings. 

Instead of adding soil over wood chips, use another type of mulch. But if your garden especially needs the intervention of wood chips, make this organic mulch the topmost layer, and use it sparsely. 

Can You Till Mulch into the Soil? 

Yes, you can go ahead and till mulch into the soil. It serves to improve moisture retention, increase oxygen levels, and improve the soil quality overall. 

To make tilling effortless, first water the area. You can use a manual tiller for the purpose or a mower such as LawnMaster Corded Electric Tiller to simplify the process. 

After tilling, you’ll find the soil feels softer (you can feel it with your hand) than before, making it ideal for your plants.  

Once done, you can repeat the process of adding newly enriched soil to the mulch, as we’ve seen, in old gardens that need refreshing. 

Can You Add Compost on Top of Mulch? 

Technically, you can put compost on top of mulch, but it may defeat the purpose of providing black gold for your plants and soil. It is better if the compost mix is directly in contact with the soil and plants, then add your desired mulch to serve as a layer of protection. 

Putting compost on top of mulch will not harm your plants and the soil, but they will not also be able to access the nutrients because the barricade mulch provides fully. 

Conclusion

Balance is everything when you want to improve the quality of your soil and plants. You can add soil on top of the mulch without any problems to your garden, but you must create an equal consistency between the soil and mulching materials.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.