Mulching in the Fall

All gardeners know that when Fall comes there are a few critical chores that must be done, regardless of how onerous they may be. Raking leaves, removing dead plant materials, and mulching are among a few of them. Mulching is not a glorious task, but it comes with the territory of gardening.

Many gardeners turn to fertilizers to improve the state of their gardens, but do not think fully through the ramifications, let alone the options. As an example, most liquid fertilizers on the market today contain nitrogen as their main component. While this makes it easy for the plants to absorb the fertilizer, it also allows what is left in the soil to wash into the water table. The consequences are richer nutrients in our water, encouraging algal and bacterial growth. Think about the quality of water you will use to take a shower or to drink, next time you reach for the liquid blue nitrogen.

Benefits of Good Mulch

Mulch prevents soil erosion by diverting runoff. It also creates a layer that holds in the moisture. Mulch sets up the perfect conditions for plants’ roots by maintaining cooler temperatures in the summer and warmer in the winter. There are so many benefits from using mulch that it should be considered as a first resort for improving the health of your garden.Dark Mulch

By laying down a 2 to 4-inch layer of mulch, you deter the growth of weeds. As the mulch degrades, it contributes to soil aeration. The ability of the soil to drain is improved. Soil particulates are more capable of aggregating as well, developing a healthier soil structure. This same layer can protect against some plant diseases. Mulch physically deters lawnmowers and weed whackers from damaging trees when placed around the base of the tree.

Types of Mulch

Typical kinds of mulch found in gardens include organic, rocks, plastic sheets, landscape fabric, and newspaper. The best is certainly organic materials, since it will have fewer detriments on the health of your plants.

Wood chips are the most popular mulching choice, due to their aesthetics and durability. They also can contribute a fine aroma to your garden area. Heavy rain is a killer on bark mulch, carrying off many pieces. Cedar, Pine, and Cyprus are among the best-known bark mulches.

Other kinds of organic mulches include shredded leaves and compost. These contribute the greatest amount of nutrients to your soil and help your garden grow. You can turn the leaves under the top soil after they have decomposed. Just pile on a new layer of leaf mulch. You can also use grass clippings as mulch if your grass has not had any chemicals used on it.

Rocks are very specific mulch. They increase solar radiation and heat up your garden area. They are also quite permanent, so use them with care. There is no nutritional value added to your soil. However, rocks do kill weeds.

Plastic sheets are typically black and highly effective at stopping weeds from growing up. They trap water in and kill weeds very effectively. It is not healthy for spots with poor drainage. It is useful in the early Spring to get the soil warmed sooner and planting of tomatoes jumpstarted. Add bark mulch to lower the heat absorbed and to hide it as an eye sore.

Cypress MulchYour local landscape store will carry many kinds of woven materials for use in mulching. These include plastic, fiber, and even paper. They are treated with a chemical coating to prevent their own decomposition. They differ from plastic sheets, by encouraging the circulation of both moisture and air. The proper use is to cover it in an additional layer of some other mulch to prevent weeds from taking root atop of it.

Newspaper is made chiefly of organic materials, aside from the inks. If the paper is glossy, the chemicals take over the mix and it becomes dangerous to use as mulch. If it looks bad to place layers of newspapers around your plants, you can cover them with a thin layer of bark mulch. This also prevents them from blowing away.

How to Mulch

When you mulch around trees avoid creating mounds at the bases. The build up of moisture on the bark only encourages pests and diseases, which damage the trees. Even the own trees’ roots will take advantage of the warm moisture and grow up to strangle the tree.

Prior to adding new mulch, relocate much of the previous year’s to the composte heap. Next, lay enough mulch to account for a 3-5-inch layer. Pull it back away from the base of the trees, but put it around all trees and shrubs. Too much and the mulch will prevent water from reaching the roots, by creating surface irrigation.

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