Let’s Talk Mulch, Shall We?

In my neighborhood right now, there’s a whole lotta mulching going on. Of course, a few folks have houses for sale, and nothing says, “well-kept home” than nicely mulched beds. I understand that.

But for the rest of the folks, this is exactly the wrong thing to be doing at exactly the wrong time. They might as well go out and trim the hedges when they’re done (and knowing my neighbors, that’s probably coming too–as soon as they’re done having the lawn care companies spread fertilizer on the street. Sigh).

You know me. You know I hate mulch worse than I hate mums. I do understand that for most gardeners, in most parts of the country, particularly the drier parts, it is a necessary evil. But I think nothing is prone to more mismanagement and misunderstanding than mulch (except perhaps fertilizer, but we’ll leave that rant for another time).

So indulge me here while I tell you that unless you live in the far, far northern climes where the ground is just about to freeze–let’s say Alaska or perhaps the intermountain west of the United States–this is the exact wrong time to be mulching the garden. Here’s why.

Mulching at the wrong time in the fall–and by the “wrong” time, I mean before the ground freezes–encourages all the destructive little critters in your area to seek out the newly mulched bed for any number or reasons.

Burrowing animals will seek it out to cache their mast harvest for the winter, thus disrupting your mulch.

Smaller creatures will also seek it out as a place to hibernate (or more properly go into torpor). While that may not sound troublesome, if these creatures are voles (and almost all of the United States and Canada has some kind of vole–the exceptions are Hawaii, Newfoundland, most of Arizona and western Texas) you will find yourself with less plant material than before the winter–in some cases significantly less, depending on the severity of the winter.

If you think you’re not familiar with this phenomena but you mulch in the fall and then find woody plants dead in the spring, you may be more familiar with it than you know.

Of course, in years with extremely heavy snow cover, even those of us that don’t mulch can find ourselves losing plants to voles. They tunnel under the snow and feast on the shrubbery, protected from their predators the hawks and owls. But not even I can control the weather!

But At least I do what I can by not mulching in the fall!

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2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Mulch, Shall We?

  1. I’m glad for your tips about mulch. I missed doing it in spring and have been battling weeds the last week, trying to finally clean up most of the offenders before heading into winter. And, mulch seemed like the next step, so thanks, I’ll wait. No use in encouraging the pesky voles any further.

    • Mulch does seem like a natural thing to do in the fall–that’s why everyone seems to be doing it! But you will be so grateful if you wait. You might not thank me as you’re out there in the cold with the mulch–but next spring you’ll definitely have more plants to show for it!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Karla

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