Should You Mulch in Fall or Spring?

Should You Mulch in Fall or Spring?

Is it better to mulch in the fall or the spring? Each has its own benefits.

The fall season brings with it a renewed enthusiasm for spending time outdoors to do what’s best for the landscape. In Maryland, autumn is a fantastic time to clean up the landscape after summer. One of the tasks which one might do during this season is mulching. The question is, should you mulch in fall or spring? Here are some reasons why you should or shouldn’t, and how to go about it.

Why Mulch in Fall

There are several reasons why it might be better to put down mulch in fall as opposed to spring. First, your garden beds will benefit from the fresh mulch throughout the winter. The frost and snow above ground can affect spring bulbs beneath it, as well as the organisms that dwell in the earth like microbes and earthworms. A fresh layer of the right mulch will insulate these creatures and your plants from the cold and from the temperature fluctuations of winter.

Another reason to mulch in fall is merely practical: one has a lot of gardening to do in the spring, so mulching in the fall could save you some time to do more come spring. In either season, however, you will be able to work or hire someone to do it in more temperate weather than summer or winter.

Why Not Mulch in Fall

You might want to wait until mid-Spring to mulch your garden beds if you want a fresh look to your yard. Fresh mulch looks more polished than dull over-winter mulch. Putting down mulch in spring is also a way to stifle weeds before they emerge.

A reason not to put down mulch at all is if you are sowing seeds directly into the ground. The tender sprouts might be stifled when they try to emerge in the spring. If you have a lot of perennials, though, you can protect them over winter without preventing them from rising next year.

How to Mulch Your Garden

One should not apply mulch too early or too late. You don’t want to trap moist summer air or clammy winter air under your mulch, so it is best to apply it either after the first frost or after the temperature stays above 50 degrees. 

Choose the right mulch according to the plants you are protecting. Mulch has different nutrients, so some shrubs, trees, or perennials will prefer different kinds. One should aim for a 3-inch layer of mulch at most.

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