By Anne Rivas
I live in a neighborhood where people have huge mounds of wood mulch delivered. I planned to mulch this spring, to keep the weeds down and preserve moisture in the soil, but mainly to make my gardens look like everyone else’s.
I didn’t get around to it, and now I’m glad.
Read this for a breakdown of commercial wood mulches, it’s eye opening.
I usually cover my gardens in the fall with a mixture of shredded leaves and grass clippings – every other mowing or so after the leaves start to fall, I bag the clippings and dump them on my gardens. It turns out that this is probably the best thing to do, and you can dig leaves directly into annual and vegetable beds in the fall. Half of the time I don’t bag the clippings, leaving them to enrich the soil.
If a little is good, is more better? Not when it comes to mulch. For one thing, deep layers of mulch – more than 4 inches – are not good for trees with surface roots. For another, mulch piled up against tree trunks provides shelter to rodents while they eat the tree bark…which is weaker and prone to infection because of the mulch. Similarly, mulch against your house foundation will draw rodents, and if you have a tiny crack in the foundation, the little darlings will come inside to enjoy your hospitality.
I start each spring and fall with big plans. This fall I will spread an inch or so of compost on all of my gardens, including around shrubs and trees. Then I’ll spread a mixture of grass clippings and leaves. I will leave some space between plants and mulch, because I have voles (still!) who might tunnel under the cover and feast on bark this winter. I’ll do the same in my perennial gardens, keeping a little distance between the mulch and the perennial crowns to avoid rot. I might do a modified lasagna – of compost, newspaper, and then shredded leaves and grass clippings to feed the soil, encourage earthworms, and discourage weeds.
So, if I’m spreading compost why do I need mulch? Mulch keeps the soil warm longer, encourages worm activity, and my compost contains some weed seeds that the layer of mulch will help to discourage from sprouting next spring.
This fall my dream may actually come true, because I will have both free time and help.