When To Complete Spring Mulching

IMG 0057 When To Complete Spring Mulching

Does it matter when you mulch the garden in the spring?  Actually it does!

Mulch is a great organic weed blocker, but it can also be a sun blocker in the spring – which is something you don’t want!  Applying mulch to your garden before the soil has a chance to really warm up from the winter months can slow the development of your garden plants, and prevent the germination of seeds.

What we love about mulch in the summer (cooling the soil, trapping the moisture, blocking the weeds)  has the same effect in the spring, just when you don’t want to sabotage the your future crops, and flowers.

Allow several weeks of progressively warmer weather to thaw and warm the layers of soil that have been deeply frozen through the winter.  In cool climates do not apply mulch until late spring, once all danger of frost has been eliminated. Let the sun hit larger expanses of darker soil, and last year’s decomposing mulch to warm everything up and speed up the growth process.  Instead of early mulching, turn over the soil in the beds with a fork, or garden weasel instead, to get oxygen to the root systems, and work in any decomposing material. In most northern areas May is the perfect month to begin mulching.

Mulching Tip: Recycling Paper Goods

mulch 1 225x300 Mulching Tip: Recycling Paper GoodsI’ll admit to it right off the bat – I have no interest in composting!  Call me lazy or superficial, but I don’t want to be “that girl” in my neighborhood, with the big bin, or leaf corral in her side yard, for composting. For some reason, the idea of sipping my morning coffee while dumping beer into a pile of decomposing garden waste, and stirring the pile to a suitable consistency, seems a little gross.  I’m not sure why I draw a line there, when I’ve been coming home lately covered in pollen and dirt.  Perhaps it’s the illusion of clean respectability that I’m after!  Or, maybe the “composting bug” doesn’t really bite until after you pass your 35th birthday?  Either way, I try to sneak the idea behind composting into my yard in a way that leaves my yard neat and tidy for the common observer.

Here’s what I do to both recycle and cut back on my weeding: After I moved in to my current house, I was eager to expand the garden area, but I wasn’t so excited about the weeds that inevitably make newly “turned” soil into their home.  I took one look at all the newspaper that I had used to wrap my valuables, and the folded boxes that all my belongings had been moved in, and got an idea.  I had heard that newspaper was a great liner under mulch to choke and smother weeds out (while improving the soil), and knew that the same principle would apply to my moving boxes too.  Since most current ink is soy based, it’s safe to add these common items to your yard.  A layer of about 6-8 pages of completely biodegradable newsprint (or one layer of corrugated cardboard box) can go under 2-3 inches of mulch to create a great barrier for several months of weed free gardening!  It was a great way to get rid of all those moving boxes and supplies, and it’s worked beautifully in my yard!  

Tips:

  • I recommend cross-hatching paper, or boxes and immediately covering what you have laid with mulch, so an errant breeze doesn’t relocate your project to your neighbor’s yard.
  • Boxes often do well when wet with a hose before you lay the mulch, to assist in softening the edges. I don’t recommend using boxes in any area you may want to add bulbs to at a later date, as boxes biodegrade at a slower rate than the newsprint, and will hinder your efforts.
  • I often keep an extra bag of mulch on hand to cover over any edges that pop up through the mulch in the first few weeks. 
  • Colored advertisements are not recommended under mulch, because of possible toxic dye in the ink, so use those at your own risk.

Your thoughts: Do you have any creative ways to prevent weeds from popping up or perhaps just some creative ways to recycle things?  Let me know, I’m always looking for new ideas to try at home!