Many gardeners apply mulch in the spring, but did you know it can be applied in the fall, as well? In fact, applying mulch in the fall offers some benefits, particularly in colder regions like ours. Applying mulch in the fall protects your plants in two main ways. First, it provides protection from temperature fluctuations for your plant roots. It’s well known that mulch can keep the ground warmer for your plants in the dead of winter. But in areas like ours, the ground actually cycles between frozen and thawed many times over the course of a single winter. Mulch will help minimize these temperature fluctuations so your plants stay as healthy as possible. As a bonus, the warmer soil makes a more hospitable home for earthworms and microbes, who help keep our soil rich and healthy. Second, mulch traps moisture in the ground for your plants. Here are our best tips for fall mulching.
Fall Mulching Tips
- Wait until after the first hard freeze to apply mulch. As established, mulch will keep the soil warmer; if you apply it too early, you can delay the ground freezing process. Waiting also gives you time to cut back perennials, which will make it easier to apply the mulch. Of course, there are downsides to this, as well. The window for applying mulch can be pretty brief — after the first hard freeze but before snow begins to fall on a regular basis (so your mulch pile doesn’t get frozen before you can apply all of it). This is complicated even more by the shorter days. But it’s worth the effort of getting the timing right for healthier plants in the spring!
- Aim for about 3 inches of mulch in your planting beds.
- Keep the mulch away from the base of your trees — it should look like a bit like a doughnut hole, with the tree trunk coming up through the “hole.” Piling mulch up around the base of the trunk can retain too much moisture and cause the trunk to decay. Harvest Power provides some very helpful images for how to mulch around trees here and This Old House has a great video tutorial here.
- Choosing the right kind of mulch is important. You’ll want an aesthetically pleasing mulch, like shredded bark, for front yard planting beds. But vegetable gardens will do well with straw or shredded leaves (just run the lawn mower over them!). And some acid loving plants, like azalea, rhododendron, holly, camellia, hydrangea and fothergilla, will do best with a pine straw.
We’re happy to help you choose the correct mulch for the job and share our tips in person! PLUS we can deliver the mulch right to your door. Stop in today and get starting on your fall mulching!