Did Leaf Mulch That Did Not Break Down Cause Seedlings To Die

Question From: C. Bandlow - Lincoln, Michigan, United States
Q: I read your article in The Detroit News Homestyle section about making leaf mold. I always compost my leaves although they are whole, they eventually break down. Last fall I put a heavy layer on my flower beds thinking it would do it's thing over winter and into early spring, it didn't entirely break down as I had hoped. I had planted a lot of cleome and was very disappointed to see that the plants looked like they had been eaten and most died, I always have luck with these. In the same bed I had planted nastirium and they did beautifully. Could the microbes in the decay have caused the cleome to die or did the mulch cause the plants to die because it was too close to the stems? Too much work and money for this to happen again as well as the bed not looking good like it should. Always enjoy your column, thanks for writing even after your condo move, your tips are so important to us. Carol

A: The quick arrival of freezing weather early in the winter of 2014/2015 slowed the decomposion of the leaf mulch. I'd pull back the leaves in spring in areas you wish to plant seeds. I don't believe the microbes killed the new seedlings. Too much moisture ( a very rainy cold spring and early summer) was most likely the cause. Slugs may also have gone after the seedlings. Sprinkling Sluggo over the soil after planting will take care of them. Best And Happy Yardening, Nancy