Now is the time to apply mulches of leaf mould, bark, garden compost or well-rotted manure. The soil will love it.

What is mulch?

Mulch is a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of soil. Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in the garden. Peat and bark mulch are probably the most attractive looking materials for use on a flower garden. The practice of mulching, covering the ground above the roots of plants and shrubs with a layer of compost, peat or other material, is done for several purposes.

The primary benefits of mulching are:

  1. Mulch acts as a blanket and helps to prevent the moisture in the soil evaporating in hot weather and reduces the need for frequent watering.

  2. Mulching with properly composted materials improves the fertility of the soil. Organic materials improve the condition of soil. As the mulch slowly decomposes, it provides organic matter which helps keep the soil loose. This improves root growth, increases the infiltration of water, and also improves the water-holding capacity of the soil. Organic matter is a source of plant nutrients and provides an ideal environment for earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms.

  3. Mulch, if applied suitably thickly and completely covering a whole area, will smother weed seedlings before they have a chance to emerge.

Other benefits of mulching include:

  • Protecting the soil from erosion
  • Reducing the impact on the soil during heavy rainfall
  • Creating a more even soil temperature
  • Providing a "finished" look to the garden

Applying Mulch in Autumn

Applying mulch in late autumn helps to moderate soil temperature during winter after the ground has frozen.

Mulches used to protect plants over winter should be loose material such as straw, hay or pine boughs that will help insulate the plants without compacting under the weight of snow and ice.

One of the benefits from winter applications of mulch is the reduction in the freezing and thawing of the soil in the late winter and early spring.