Should you mulch plants in the fall? The short answer is: yes! Mulching around plants in autumn has all kinds of benefits, from preventing soil erosion to suppressing weeds to protecting plants from moisture loss and shifts in temperature. Keep reading for fall mulching tips.
Fall Mulch for Plants
In a lot of areas, autumn is a time of drier air and more drastic shifts in temperature than in the summer growing season. If you have perennials or cool weather annuals, laying down a good, thick layer of mulch is highly advisable if you want them to stay healthy in the fall and survive the winter.
Organic mulches such as pine needles, sawdust, straw, grass clippings, and fallen leaves are good for introducing nutrients into the soil. Be careful with straw, however, as it’s usually full of seeds and may cause a huge weed problem in the spring. Either purchase weed-free straw or compost it for a full year before using it.
Using fall leaf mulch is a great idea because it’s seedless and, if you have any trees around, completely free. Spread your dead leaves around your plants several inches (8 cm.) deep. The only concern with dead leaves is that they’re low in nitrogen, an essential nutrient for spring growth. Apply 1 cup of nitrogen-rich fertilizer for every cubic foot of leaves.
If you use grass clippings, apply thin layers on multiple passes to avoid it becoming a slimy mess. Don’t use grass clippings if you’ve used any kind of herbicides on your lawn.
Mulching Around Plants in Autumn
Fall much for plants also doubles as a weed suppressant. You’ll enjoy having no weeds between your cabbages in the fall, but you’ll really enjoy having practically no weeds to pull in the spring! Lay down ¼ inch (0.5 cm.) stacks of newspaper or weed barrier in places you want absolutely no weeds, then cover it with 8 inches (20 cm.) of wood chips.
Mulching around plants in autumn is also good for maintaining rich soil. Put down a sheet of sturdy plastic, weighted down with rocks, over any bare beds, and you’ll be welcomed in the spring by soil that is un-eroded and decidedly warmer (thus, easier to plant in) than the surrounding soil.