As I write this post, winter is beginning its descent on the Pacific Northwest. So what do I currently have on my mind? MULCH, MULCH, and more MULCH. Every time I hear the wind pick up outside or the rain start falling again I get another reminder that I need to make sure my garden is ‘tucked in’ with a nice warm blanket of mulch for the coming winter.
There are so many great reasons to add mulch to your garden beds so here’s a few to drive home the importance of mulch:
- It adds a layer of insulation around tender plants. Some of your plants may be young or considered ‘tender perennials’ in your area. If the temperature dips too low in the winter, you may be at risk of losing some of your plants. Mulch acts as insulation material that can keep the area surrounding your plant a warmer temperature than the outside air.
- It adds organic material to the soil. As long as you choose appropriate material for mulch, the mulch will slowly begin to break down. As mulch breaks down, it will add organic material back into the soil, which offers numerous benefits to the garden.
- It helps to keep weeds at bay. Nature will inherently attempt to ‘cover up’ bare soil. If you leave soil bare (and appropriate climate conditions exist), you will encourage other plants or weeds to take root and grow in a space you do not want them to grow. Mulch is your best bet to keep your soil covered over the winter months and will help prevent the need for endless hours of weeding in the spring as soon as temperatures start to warm up. Another option for addressing bare soil in the winter: Cover Cropping!
- It helps conserve moisture. If you live in an area where you have limited water, mulch can help conserve moisture in the soil and lessen the amount of water needed to keep your plants thriving.
- It provides habitat for pollinators and invertebrates. Both Bumble Bees and Butterflies can use piles of leaves as additional cover during the winter months. Leftover leaves can also be used by different species for laying eggs, or as a food source. Read more about it here: https://xerces.org/2017/10/06/leave-the-leaves/
- It can help change the pH of your soil. If you are growing plants that love acidic soil (blueberries for example), you can lower your soil pH by continually adding mulch such as pine bark or pine needles.
So, what are your favorite materials for mulching your garden?