What’s that “stuff” on my mulch?

This is the time of the year, when we start cutting back plants, raking leaves, and spreading mulch. Today, I was raking old mulch from a planting bed, and I found a white thing that looked like a spider web. First time I saw it was several years ago. I thought it was something bad, that had to be removed from the yard. This “white web” is fungal mycelium.

Fungal mycelium

Fungal mycelium

This is a good sign of a healthy soil. In this case the fungus is decomposing the mulch, and it is creating available nutrients for the plants.
Mulch was applied to a planting bed last year. Good fungus is digesting the mulch. Byproduct (nutrients) from the decomposition is available in the soil for the plants. Plants will take whatever nutrients they need. I like to use aged hemlock. It is several years old, and it is already partially digested by the microbiology. Plants rely on the microbes that decompose the leaves, dead twigs, etc…In nature, nobody is feeding or fertilizing plants. When using chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides, we are destroying the microbiology in the soil.

The best thing to do to your planting beds is, to apply wood chips early in the Fall. Other products can be used like, newspaper, straw, and leaves among others.

Mulch is great because it holds moisture,and it prevent weeds from germinating in the spring. Mulch also works as insulator for the plants during the cold winter months. Something to avoid, is to apply too much mulch around the plants. Generally 2-3″ of mulch is more than enough to feed the beneficial fungi.

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