Top 5 Reasons to Mulch in the Autumn
The top 5 reasons to work or mulch your annual flower borders, allotment or veg patch in the autumn:
With the nights drawing in and Monty Don commenting on twitter "Lordamighty, November grey never fails to appall anew" you might be tempted to dive for cover, retreating in to your slippers, blazing fire in front, hot cocoa in hand.
Don't, not yet. This is the time to get some key work done on soil you wish to plant into next year. We are talking about flower beds, rasied beds, vegetable plots etc.
Time spent now, when there is little else to do, will repay you 10 times over in the spring.
Here are the top 5 reasons to work and mulch bare soil now :
1. Stop winter germinating weeds :
Did you know that many weeds will happily germinate and grow right through the winter, whenever the temp is above freezing: These weeds include Pansy, Chickweed, Bittercress and Red Dead Nettle. You probably will have your own localised examples as well. To prevent this, cultivate and remove all of last years trash and autumn weeds, then mulch (1-2") with a soil improver.
2. Get help from your worms. Let them work your ground :
The action of worms is often discounted in gardens (and in fact detested on the lawn with their worm casts). They really are your best friend. Cultivate your ground very carefully, remove last years trash and then put a fibrous mulch like leaf mould or compost on to the surface. This will encourage your worms to rise to the surface to feed. They will then draw a lot of the mulch back down through the profile. This is the single best long term way to improve your heavy or clay soils.
3. Frost :
Talk to anyone farming heavy soils, and they will tell you about ploughing in the autumn. The reason is that the freeze and thaw action of frost breaks the clay bonds allowing a tilth to be created. The key to this is that you don't heavily cultivate in the spring, only work the top few inches. In this example, don't mulch, as this will insulate your soil. For more in depth information on clay soils, please visit this page: Using composts and manures to improve heavy clay soil
4. Insulation :
Further to the final statement in 3 above, a thick layer of mulch helps to retain heat in your soil, this can allow earlier sowing in the spring (not by much, but every little helps at that time). Use a very fine mulch like spent mushroom or composted bark, you can then sow straight through the mulch in the spring leaving the soil with its blanket on.
5. Time saving :
Once your pruning is done, your bulbs are planted and your lawn mower has been serviced and put past. What else do you have to do. Take the opportunity whilst garden tasks are diminished to work your soils, mulching when finished. Come the spring time your sowing will be a dream.
Here is a list of our top 4 mulching soil improvers, with their best properties :
1. Spent Mushroom Compost:
Our top, nutritious, fibrous mulch. The waste product of mushroom growing, recently shown to be neutral pH, this is your best all round option. Next year your vegetable fruits and flowers will reward the use of this highly nutritious product. Incorporate or plant through in the spring. This product is safer and more consistent than farm yard manure.
2. Green Waste Compost:
Certified, PAS 100 grade compost on a 6mm sieve. Great for most uses. Slightly above neutral pH. Plant through or incorporate in spring. Not quite as nutritious as spent mushroom compost
3. Composted Bark:
This is the business when we are talking about heavy soils. This super fine material is highly stable and will not break down too fast in your soil. The result is that it will successfully "open" heavy soils over an extended period. Composted bark is slightly acidic and very low in nutrients
4. Nursery Grade Bark:
This grade or bark mulch is ideal for using where its decorative properties will be required next year, You can easily plant through in the spring with annuals, leaving the area highly decorative (Work the soil well now, you will be able to plant by dibber in the spring) Again this is low in nutrients. Use on quality, nutritious loams.
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