Fall is a good time of year for mulching your garden beds. The spring seems to be busier for me and putting the garden to bed clean with a fresh dressing of mulch just plain feels good. Be sure to weed the beds thoroughly before laying your mulch and be careful not to smother your plants. The extra protection at this time will be helpful for surviving the winter ahead. Because organic mulches are in a continuous cycle of decomposing you will probably have to re-mulch your beds every second year. By using organic mulch you end up mulching and composting at the same time.
There are many different materials you can use for mulching and it becomes a personal preference or budget decision. Below are a few of the better materials that you might like to consider using.
Where I garden there is a never ending supply of pine needles for pine mulch. After they are shed from the trees they are easily gathered and spread around the garden beds. Particularly useful in shrub borders, pine needles make a very attractive mulch. Lay good and thick to prevent spring weeds from sprouting. Pine needles are a bit acidic.
Hay / Straw
Good for use in the vegetable garden. When buying bales from a farmer try to get the second or third cutting as there will be less seeds in it. Relatively inexpensive and easy to lay. Hay bales break apart in flakes so just lay these side by side down your rows.
Bark mulch or wood bark is easily bought in bags at the nursery but for large areas it’s better to buy a truck load to save expense. Useful for flower and shrub borders. The finer chipped bark looks nicer than the heavy chunk type. Spread about 4 inches thick. Matures nicely and slowly decomposes into your soil. Decorative bark is a widely used mulch for all garden areas.
Inexpensive but weathers to a dull dead looking gray which is not all that attractive. If used regularly it can deplete your soil of nitrogen.
Leaves make a great inexpensive, nutritious mulch. To avoid heavy packing on your beds shred the leaves first with your lawn mower.
An attractive light mulch for small areas. Rather expensive if your garden is large. Available in bags from nursery centers.
Very nutritious mulch for vegetable gardens and shrubs. Use as a winter mulch and till into the soil in the spring before planting.
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