When the leaves start dropping and the wind starts blowing, you know the fall is coming close—a preliminary warning that winter is following close behind and that prepping your garden before the cold hits is in order.
You’ll want to remove pest-ridden plants, kill weeds, and change the watering schedule to suit the lower temperatures. Some people would argue that you should add mulching to the list, but can you mulch in the fall?
Yes, you can—it’s preferable for a lot of reasons we’ll discuss in this article.
Can You Mulch in the Fall?
Yes, you can mulch in the fall. It’s often preferable because it keeps your soil healthy until the winter returns, so you won’t get surprised in the spring that your soil needs major maintenance.
You can mulch at any time of the year, but it’s challenging at some times like the winter because of the dry soil. You can do it in the spring, but the heat will be spilling down your back. Doing it during the fall makes sense because the soil will be still warm, so it’ll retain its moisture.
Why Mulch in the Fall – 3 Reasons
There are multiple reasons mulching in the fall is favored by many gardeners. Here are a few:
1 – You Won’t Have to Do It in the Spring
Doing your mulching in the fall means you won’t have to do it in the hot months. Let’s face it; doing any gardening task with the sun pouring its heat down your back is nothing short of torture.
So if you can do it in the fall instead, you’ll save yourself the hassle. It also means you’ll return in the spring to a ready, flowering garden without having to prepare the soil.
2 – A Healthier Soil in the Winter
In cold areas, the sudden drop in temperature can shock the plants and increase the growth of weeds. In turn, the tiny weeds still sprouting compete with the plants for nutrients, putting more pressure on their roots.
Mulching prevents weeds and grass from growing because it blocks sunlight, which gives the plants a chance to get their nutrients and keep their roots healthy.
Instead of returning to a weedy, dry soil in the spring, you’ll find that the soil retained its moisture throughout the winter thanks to fall mulching.
However, it’s worth noting that mulching only prevents tiny weeds from growing. If you have long weeds in the garden, the mulch won’t pose a challenge for them, and they’ll still grow. You’ll have to remove them beforehand.
3 – A Pretty Garden Throughout the Winter
Since mulching blocks the sunlight and keeps weeds from growing, the plants can retain their pretty looks until spring arrives. Weeds and grass won’t overgrow as they usually do during the cold months, so your garden will remain looking beautiful.
On top of that, if you trim your perennials with mulching, they’ll maintain their clean looks without growing new bulbs or seedlings. That’s one more task to remove from your to-do list for the next spring!
The Challenges of Mulching in the Fall
Though mulching in the fall is often recommended, it comes with some challenges. Here are a few things to consider before mulching your garden in the fall:
- If you live in a snowy area, it might be better to mulch in the spring. Mulching in the fall may cause the plants to heave when snow falls and thaws off, which means the soil will turn and roots will come out of the ground.
- If you don’t cut back your perennials, you can’t mulch in the fall. To do proper mulching, you’ll have to cut the stems of your perennials first so you can scatter the mulch evenly around their beds. If you don’t want to trim them yet, it’s better to wait for the spring to mulch.
- If you have long weeds in your garden, you’ll have to remove them before mulching in the fall. Otherwise, they’ll grow throughout winter and compete with your perennials for nutrients.
Do’s of Mulching in the Fall
- Apply a layer of mulch that’s at least three inches thick to make sure it does a proper job of retaining the soil’s mixture.
- Try to choose a mulch that both looks aesthetic and does the job. You don’t want your garden covered in unpleasant-looking mulch all through the winter.
- Choose a mulch that traps air, like shredded leaves and bark. You want the soil to stay insulated all through the winter, so keep that in mind while choosing the mulch.
Don’t’s of Mulching in the Fall
- Don’t mulch over well-established weeds. Make sure to remove them before attempting to mulch in the fall.
- Don’t leave the mulch unprotected if you live in a windy area. Make sure to cover it with chicken wire to keep it from floating.
Yes, you can mulch in the fall if you don’t want to do it in the spring. It makes your job easier when the hot months come around and preserves your perennials through the winter.
On top of that, it’s better to mulch in the cool weather of the fall instead of doing it in the spring with the sun’s heat pouring down your back!
Don’t forget to remove the weeds and trim your perennials beforehand to allow the mulch to do its job.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
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