Fall Mulching

The ins and outs of fall mulching including covering the fall crops, soil moisture retention, weed suppression, soil temperature and what to mulch.


| October/November 1991



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Sandy Langhorst, of Santa Rosa, California, prepares her autumn garden with a dried-leaf mulch.


PHOTO: DAVID CAVAGNARO

Fall mulching has many benefits not the least of which, as far as I'm concerned, is that you can walk around in your garden on rainy days and not have three inches of sticky mud on the soles of your shoes when you come back inside. 

But besides acting as an organic StainMaster, applying mulch in the fall (and mulching anytime, really) reduces water loss in soil, suppresses weed growth, and protects plants from temperature extremes — the final warm October days and first wintry November nights.

Soil Moisture Retention

Mulch's ability to conserve soil moisture has long been documented. It may be its most universally recognized virtue. While authorities and test results differ, it is clear that moisture evaporation from soil covered with mulch is reduced anywhere from 10 to 50 percent. Whichever you accept, the water-conserving value of mulching can't be overemphasized, especially in these times of water restrictions and shortages.

Applying mulch keeps the soil from drying out partly because it prevents dew and water drawn up from the subsoil from escaping. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, dew is not simply condensation of water from the atmosphere. It is also condensation of moisture from the air pockets found in the soil. Most dew is completely wasted, as far as plant growth is concerned, unless there is something on the surface to catch it and prevent it from evaporating.

Weed Suppression





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