This early snow sure is putting a damper on my Fall garden mulching. Every year I collect enough leaf bags from around the neighborhood to mulch my beds in the Fall, then keep a big heap of bags to use in the late spring once all the transplants are stable and seeds are germinated. If I’m not snatching a leaf bag from the alley by hand after my morning run, I am literally pulling up to someone’s curb (really hoping they are not home and watching), and stuffing four of those tall paper bags full of leaves into the trunk of my Subaru while my children sit in the back seat, brushing overflowing leaves off their heads. Before my youngest was born, I could fit three more in the backseat next to R. The sacrifices we make to have these little humans in our lives…
This year there has not been as many leaf bags out for pick up as in years past. Either my neighbors are getting lazy and not raking, or the snow came before all the leaves dropped this year. Judging from my fruit trees that have barely even begun to turn color, let alone drop their leaves, it’s likely the latter. An early winter is never good in my book, but my daughter is happy, so that’s worth something.
I did manage to sneak several bags from my neighbor’s maple (thanks Emilie!), and as I was in the midst of writing this post, I got a great hook-up with a kind friend who has lots of fallen leaves. In the end, I have mulched some of the garden beds with a leaf blanket a few inches deep and hoping to get to the rest when we have some warmer weather to thaw the ground more for a final weeding.
Quick, go shove that leaf pile that you haven’t yet bagged up onto your garden before more snow comes. It’s so easy! If you don’t have leaves, I encourage you to buy some strawbales to get the job done. Cover any exposed soil, and cushion the mulch around your perennials. All the garden beds benefit from mulching!
Why you should mulch
I became a mulching fanatic when I read Ruth Stout’s No Work Garden Book.
In a quick summary, mulching:
- blocks weeds from emerging
- holds moisture in the ground
- creates a soil-critter friendly habitat
- decomposes over time, thereby transforming your soil structure into a fluffy hummus
- decomposition of the mulch matter adds nutrients to your soil (Note, for this reason, do not mulch your veggie beds with pine needles; pine = acidic. Instead, put pine needles on acidic-loving berries.)
I can’t recall if Ruth talks specifically about the benefits of covering your Fall soil or not; that bit of info I’ve gleaned from my readings on cover cropping and no-till gardening. Mulching is important in the Spring, but is again required in the Fall once you’ve taken down your summer plants. Fall mulching protects your beds from snow, ice and rain; it especially:
- prevents run-off of your top soil
- prevents leaching of important surface nutrients
- beats the early-growing Spring grass out
You definitely don’t need to read that book to adopt this mulching-is-super-important mindset. Trust my experiences. After my battle with keeping grass and other weeds out of my garden, I would actually say mulching is life-changing for the gardener. So much easier. So much more enjoyable. Such an easy way to build healthy soil. Even if your beds are brand new, I would mulch immediately after spreading your compost.
Happy Fall gardening (or is it Winter?)!
What Fall chores did our early snow and cold put a stop on for you?