In reply to the person with 5" of mulch under her roses: you did the right thing removing it, as it gets to a point of suffocating the plants. I have seen gardens with irrigation systems, where the ornamental trees are dying at the uppermost branches because the mulch is so thick the water never gets through deep down. All they were doing is irrigating the mulch. We see it all the time. 2-3" of mulch is all you want, new or old. Breaking up that crust is good if you want to keep the mulch another year, which it should last you about two years. We use shredded bark mulch here in NJ for the garden beds. You want to move it away from the crowns of perennials, and move it away for fertilizing then move back in place. Extra work, but the fertilizer is in place. Otherwise, if I’m in a hurry I use a garden fork to aerate around the base of the plant, fertilize, then water in. Good luck.
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Welcome! I’m Margaret Roach, a leading garden writer for 25 years—at ‘Martha Stewart Living,’ ‘Newsday,’ and in three books. I host a public-radio podcast; I also lecture, plus hold tours at my 2.3-acre Hudson Valley (NY) Zone 5B garden, and always say no to chemicals and yes to great plants.