House & Home

KC Gardens: Break up old mulch and reuse it

A sampling of recent questions and answers from

KC Gardens

, The Star's gardening blog:

I was cleaning out my flower beds, and the mulch is really hard and dried and has a lot of acorns in it. Do I need to rake the old mulch out and put new in? May

Break it up with a rake and spread it back over the garden. There is no reason to discard the mulch and purchase more. Some mulches do compact or mat.

Remember, a mulch layer should be about 3 inches deep. Mulch is expensive. In fact, I think I spend more on mulch than plants. So I like to get the full life out it. In other words, I like for it to compost to improve the soil.

For two years, I’ve planted a Shasta daisy that has failed to come back in the spring. It’s in a sunny garden where everything else thrives, and it’s got lots of room. I’ve always heard Shastas are hardy. I’m thinking about switching to something else this year. What do you think? — Ashley

Many people have a love/hate relationship with Shasta daisies. Success is all about the variety.

If you go to the garden center, there are a number of different varieties on the market. Each has some advantage over the other. But in my humble experience, the only Shasta daisy that is truly perennial in Kansas City is the variety ‘Becky.’ Every other variety tends to be short-lived.

They prefer a fertile, organically enriched soil and even moisture. Deadheading and moisture will help the plant bloom most of the summer. Hot, dry and no deadheading equal very little repeat flowering.

I have a few young boxwoods that came out of the winter with about a quarter of the branches dead. Should we let these plants fill themselves in after a few years, or should we start over? — Cindy

Boxwoods, as well as other evergreens, took it on the chin this past winter. Prune at the dead wood and give it time, and the plant will fill back in. That is one of the beauties of boxwood, as they are a little more forgiving. Provide good care this summer to help improve new growth.