Mulch – Using Plastic Sheet

Q: While cleaning up my back yard I found black plastic covering the ground under my shrubbery. It has evidently been there several years because there is a layer of decomposed leaves two inches thick on top. Should I remove the plastic? Can I add the leaf dirt back under the plants?

A: Did the plants mulched by the plastic seem healthy? Or, as I imagine, did they appear weak and spindly?

While the woven product sold for the purpose is a good weed preventer, plastic sheet is never a good mulch for plants.

It cuts off the supply of oxygen to plant roots as well as preventing water and fertilizer from penetrating. Rake the rotten leaf mold off of the plastic, pull the sheets up and throw them away.

Don’t be surprised if you see lots of white roots growing on the soil surface. They were trying to find the little bit of air under the plastic. Scratch the soil hard with a bow rake and scatter the decomposed leaves back under your shrubbery. Cover with pine straw or pine bark mulch.

Listen carefully as you work – you might hear the plants saying “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

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