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When to Mulch

We get asked a lot…WHEN SHOULD I START TO MULCH?

When to mulch really depends on what you want the mulch to do for you. For weed suppression and moisture retention, spring is best; for additional nutrients and winter protection, fall is best.


    • As long as the mulch is loose and not compacted, it will serve to slow the rate at which water evaporates from the soil. Once compacted into the soil, it offers less evaporative protection.
    • Mulch keeps the soil cooler since the soil stays moist longer.
    • It offers a dry surface so stems do not lay on damp ground and rot.
    • As mulch slowly decays, it conditions the soil. Additional organics improve soil tilth (or structure). Good tilth increases the free movement of air and water through the soil.
    • Mulch can suppress weed germination by blocking the seeds from sunlight if it’s deep enough (a three-inch layer is recommended).
    • Laid loosely on the soil surface, it absorbs the impact of heavy rain, slowing compaction, so it slows runoff and prevents erosion.
    • It suppresses the spread of some diseases because it reduces splash onto plant stems.
    • Mulch can be applied to supplement low mineral content, e.g., ground oyster shell/gravel mulch provides calcium.
    • It can be decorative or unite a diverse planting scheme.
    • Mulch can provide warmer soil temperatures, as red plastic placed around tomatoes does; use a material that absorbs infrared radiation so the soil warms faster.

Mulching material needs to be selected for the specific purpose since one kind of mulch will not fulfill all functions. Mulching materials can be inorganic (crushed gravel and granite, river rock or small stones, lava rock, plastic sheeting, etc.) or organic (bark, pine needles, dried grass clippings, nutshells, compost, and nearly anything else that lets water through and won’t smell when it sits for a while).

  • By : Charlie Harris
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