Mulch and compost—they’re not as pretty as flowers and fall leaves, but they are key ingredients of a thriving garden. Once the perennials have died back and the vegetables are harvested, you have a perfect opportunity to spread these nourishing layers. Here you’ll learn why mulch and compost are so important, especially in the fall, and how to use them for best results!
Healthy soil is a healthy garden, and spreading compost is one the best ways to improve and replenish soil. Every time you harvest a vegetable or prune a perennial, you take away organic material that originally came from soil. Spreading compost brings back nutrients and organic matter. Plus, it adds living soil microbes and enhances soil structure—all for the benefit of your current and future plants.
Fall and spring are two ideal windows when you can spread compost in the garden. Of those choices, fall wins the prize as best time. Why? In spring, you have to wait until the soil is dry, and then avoid disturbing budding bulbs and other plants. In the fall, all the plants have gone into dormancy, so you can lay down the compost freely.
More importantly, the winter gives your compost extra time to break down and mix into your soil. While we’re warm inside, the soil microbes keep working, mixing nutrients around and creating porous structure. Plus, the bacterial activity brings a little warmth to insulate roots against extreme temperatures. When spring finally comes, your soil is ready for planting.
Tools that you’ll need: weeder, wheelbarrow, shovel, and steel rake.
Mulch makes your life easier by suppressing weeds and preventing them from seeding from above. It also protects the soil from the sun, retains moisture, and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes. All of this saves time and resources on watering and weeding, while keeping your soil and plants healthy!
Mulch is a good thing to have on your soil anytime of year, but it has special benefits over the winter. As natural insulation, it protects roots near the soil surface, and buffers plants from damaging freeze and thaw cycles. Mulch also holds and retains moisture for plants during the dry months of winter, when most water is frozen. Finally, mulch provides a buffer against natural erosion from snow melt, wind, and winter storms.
Your choice of mulch depends on what kind of garden or plants you’re growing:
Tools you’ll need: weeder, wheelbarrow, shovel, steel rake, and soft rake.
Cover cropping is another way to protect and improve soil in your vegetable garden over the winter. A living mulch, it grows in the shoulder seasons, while shading out weeds and fixing nitrogen in the soil. When planting season arrives next spring, you can turn the crop right into the soil as a green manure. Clover and buckwheat are two common cover crops for vegetable beds.
While compost enriches your soil, mulch provides a protective layer. Together, they nourish the soil through the winter, ensuring that you have a healthy garden, an abundant harvest, and beautiful growth next year and beyond.
For those without access to a yard, or have a smaller-sized yard, there are still plenty of composting options available in-store! For a simple start at home, pick up a Bamboozle Compost Bin, a convenient way to recycle kitchen scraps and organic waste. Made from biodegradable bamboo fiber, it features a filtered lid to help absorb odors, and is dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning. The perfect size for your kitchen countertop at 8” x 6.25” x 9”. Choose from available colors like Forest and Terracotta to match your kitchen decor and start composting today!