Mulch before or after planting herbs?

Mulch after planting herbs in raised garden beds, pots or in your garden beds. Once you have planted herbs in the ground add straw or sugar cane mulch around basil, parsley and chives. The best mulch to apply after planting Mediterranean herbs like rosemary and thyme is bark mulch.

How to mulch before planting herbs

To successfully grow herbs clear a space in your garden beds and remove any weeds. Dig through organic compost and aged cow manure and plant your herbs at the same soil level as the pot they came in.

Once you have planted the herbs, move mulch around the plant leaving a 1 inch space between the plant stem and the mulch. This will help to avoid stem rot.

I have added bark mulch around my creeping thyme planted with annual flowers like Viola.

The best mulch for Mediterranean herbs

The best mulch for Mediterranean herbs like sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary and marjoram is bark or mixed tree mulch. These are longer lasting mulches that suit these herbs that prefer to dry out between watering. Mediterranean herbs are perennial meaning they will keep growing year to year.

Using a longer lasting mulch like bark chips or mixed tree mulch will keep the moisture in the soil help to prevent weeds from growing through. You will only need to top up the mulch every 6 months as it breaks down and adds extra nutrients to the soil.

Use bark or mixed tree mulch around Mediterranean herbs like Rosemary

The best mulch for annual herbs

The best mulch to use for annual herbs is sugar cane mulch or straw mulch. Basil, parsley and coriander all grow well with mulch that breaks down quickly and adds nutrients to the soil. Clear a space in your garden, plant the herbs and add the mulch around them after planting.

Once the herbs have finished growing over the season the finished plant can be removed and the mulch dug into the soil. If you live in a mild climate, some annual herbs can grow throughout the year and will not need to be replaced. You can then add mulch after around 3-6 months to prevent weeds.   

Use lighter mulches like sugar cane or straw around annual herbs

Mulching before or after planting herb seeds

When planting herb seeds you would only add mulch after the plants have grown to around 3-4 inches high. Do not cover seeds with mulch because it will block the light and the seeds will not be able to sprout through the mulch.

Once the plants have grown through the soil, you can move mulch around the plant over any bare soil. This will help to keep moisture in the soil so you will need to water less.

How much mulch to put around herbs after planting

Mulch can be sprinkled around your herbs after planting using your hands or a fork. Lay the mulch around 2-3 inches thick. This will allow the rain or water to get through to the soil and reach the plant roots.

If mulch is added too thick it can block the water from reaching the roots and mold might form on the top of the mulch.

Place mulch around herb seeds once the plant has grown to 3-4 inches high. I like to apply the mulch a little bit lighter around very small plans and build it up over time.

How to plant herbs after mulching

If you already have your garden beds covered in bark mulch or straw mulch you can still plant herbs. Move the mulch back with a rake to at least 4 times the size of the plant you will be digging into the soil. Dig a hole around twice the size of the plant. The soil you take out can be placed in a pot or bucket.

You can then add the plant and backfill with the soil you removed. Holding the removed soil in a pot or bucket will stop it from mixing with the mulch that is on the surface of the soil.

The most important thing to remember is not to get any mulch in the soil or the hole you are planting into. The mulch will cause large air holes and take nitrogen away from the plant roots as it breaks down. Always keep the mulch above the soil and your plants will be happy.

Rake mulch back from the soil so that it doesn’t fall into the hole when you plant your herbs.

When to change mulch around herbs

Mulch should be topped up around herbs and you won’t need to remove it. I like to top mulch up twice per year in spring and in fall. Add mulch straight after planting your herbs to protect the soil. Bark mulch may last the whole year and may only need to be topped up in spring.

Lighter mulches like straw usually need to be dug into the soil twice per year and new mulch can be applied when you plant new herbs. Make sure the straw or sugar cane mulch has broken down well before digging it into the soil. It should look dark brown and completely dried out.

Mulch before or after planting herbs – FAQ

Does mulch prevent herbs from growing?

Mulch placed over herb leaves or seeds will stop them from getting light and they won’t grow well. Adding mulch too close to the stem of the plant can trap water against the plant and cause rot. Add mulch after planting herbs when they are at least 3-4 inches high and keep it away from the base of the plant.

Will herbs grow through mulch?

Most herbs will struggle to grow through mulch. While Mediterranean herbs like Thyme grow well in most conditions, they will struggle to grow through mulch from seed. Creeping Thyme will move over the mulch as it grows and is a great way to fill the space in your garden.

Should you mulch around Basil?

Add sugar cane or straw mulch around basil after you plant it. I have planted basil from a small plant I bought at a grocery store. Although it is almost winter in Sydney, it is still growing in my vegetable garden. If you live in an area with mild winters, annual summer herbs like basil can keep growing even through the winter months.

My basil is still growing well in a protected spot in my raise vegetable bed even in Fall.

Mulching before or after planting herbs – Summary

The best approach is to mulch after planting all herbs. Start with an open area of soil, improve it with organic matter like compost or aged cow manure and plant your herbs. You can then surround them with bark mulch for Mediterranean herbs or straw for soft annual herbs.

Mulching around herbs after planting will stop the mulch from getting in the hole as you are planting and taking nitrogen from the herb. If you already have a mulched garden bed, rake bake the mulch first before planting your herbs.

Happy mulching.

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