Frequently Asked Questions About Fall Mulching

October 22, 2021
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landscaped garden - mulched flower bed and granite cobblestone path. top view

We’re all about that mulch.

Not only is it great for sprucing up your garden in the spring, covering soil with a solid layer of mulch in the fall will help reduce water loss, suppress weed growth, and protect your annuals from temperature extremes.

The time to mulch is now, and the experts at JK Enterprise Landscape Supply are standing by to answer all of those nagging questions: What kind? How deep? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

What kind of mulch should I use?

The presence of shredded mulch (sold black, brown, and red in color) will keep the soil from drying out during the cold weather months, and will continue to encourage general plant growth when used throughout the spring and summer. Woods and bark are great for controlling weeds and improving the overall look of your garden, but won’t do much for protecting your soil as winter approaches.

(Might we suggest Cedar Valley Premium Double Shredded Hardwood Mulch?)

Can I mulch my whole yard?

The short answer is this: No.

In areas of low elevation where the ground is already damp, mulch added to moisture-rich soil will only add MORE moisture to the soil, and… much to everyone’s ultimate dismay, encourage the overpopulation of slugs and other pests out to harm your plants. If you’re unsure about where to mulch, and what spots to leave alone, ask.

Will mulch prevent weeds?

There are no short answers here. While mulch will prevent seeds of weeds from germinating and becoming an issue, it won’t do a thing for those that have rooted. Take care to dig up any and all weeds — especially the dandelions; they’re tough, and will push right through — before applying your layer of pine or hardwood mulch. You should also know that the job’s not all pouring and spreading. If there’s one thing the wind is good for, it’s spreading seeds from pillar to post. Even mulch-covered gardens will need maintenance (though maybe not so much until spring).

How thick should I apply the mulch?

A three- to four-inch layer of mulch is ideal for preventing soil sprouts and increasing moisture retention. In this case, less is more. Mulch depths should never exceed five or six inches, as more could lead to rot.

How much mulch do I need?

Do a little math. In order to determine how much mulch you need, multiply the length and width of the garden bed, and divide by three. Mulch is typically sold by the cubic foot, and this simple formula will help you determine the volume needed to cover a bed, four inches deep. How much you’ll need might surprise you.

JK Enterprise Landscape Supply offers mulch in bags of two cubic feet or in bulk.

Where can I mulch?

You can mulch just about anywhere in your landscaping project that you think it might be beneficial to the plants, or even just visually appealing. As long as you make sure that you are not using so much mulch that it covers your whole yard and leads to the pest problems discussed above, you can mulch as you wish. One obvious place to put mulch layers is surrounding any new trees that you are planting. It is also a good idea to surround colorful plant beds with a layer of mulch, as the contrast between the bright plant colors and the deep brown mulch will make your plants and flowers even more beautiful. 

Can mulch prevent insects?

Mulch can absolutely help prevent insect infestations in your garden. If your main goal is to deter insects, cedar mulch may be the best choice for you. Cedar mulch is especially effective for this purpose because it has a naturally-ocurring chemical called thujone in it. Thujone has a menthol-like smell which several types of insects absolutely hate. Aside from several types of ants, the thujone in cedar mulch can help keep away beetles, moths, and even roaches. 

Does mulch insulate soil?

Among all the benefits of mulching that this article has discussed, soil insulation is one of the most helpful and consistend properties of mulch. You can think of mulch as the landscaping equivalent to the insulation within the walls of your home. Much like housing insulation, mulch is a helpful protection against severe weather. When it gets too hot, mulch can help protect your roots from the harsh, glaring sun. When it gets too cold, mulch keeps the roots warm and snug.

Does mulch reduce soil compaction?

Yes, mulch can be extremely useful in reducing soil compaction. Soil compaction is an often-neglected potential issue in landscaping that you will want to be sure to pay attention to. Soil needs to remain relatively loose and free in order to allow water and nutrients from the air to be distributed deep into the soil. When soil becomes too pressed down and compacted, you may have to use garden tools to break it up and get it loose again. This can be a greuling an a laborious process, and there is no guarantee that you will be able to restore the soil to its previous texture. 

When you have a thin but well-laid layer of mulch on top of the soil, soil compacion is much less likely to occur. This is the case because soil compaction is largely caused by pressure bearing down directly on the top layer of soil, which in turn bears down on the rest of the soil and causes the soil to become dense and hard. The pressure which causes compaction can come from animals and humans walking on top of the garden bed, or from weather conditions or even just the pressure of gravity over time. The useful thing about mulch in this context is that it can act as a shock absorber for whatever pressure may be exerted on the garden bed, potentially leaving the soil itself unscathed even as significant weight bears down on it over time.