Monty Don shares ‘rules’ for mulching your garden in winter01/19/2023
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Mulching is a great way to give back to your garden using ingredients that have previously grown in your lawn, pots, beds and borders. The benefits of making your own organic matter are unmatched no matter when you choose to spread the mulch in your garden, though according to gardening expert Monty Don, it is best done early in the year. Sharing advice in his latest blog post, the TV host revealed the “rules” of mulching in winter.
You may not want to venture outside into the freezing cold to do some gardening but there’s a lot to get done between January and February – including mulching.
Monty said: “The best time to put down a mulch is whenever you get round to do it because the pros of a good organic mulch – which are weed suppression, moisture retention and improved soil structure and fertility – always outweigh any cons such as suppressing ‘little treasure’ seedlings.
“However, we do try and mulch all our borders in January because this gives time in autumn for the borders to die back gracefully and allow birds to eat all seeds and berries but is early enough not to suppress the growth of bulbs such as alliums and tulips that start to appear by the end of February.”
While timing can boost the benefits of homemade mulch in your garden, the TV host noted that your technique is also important.
He explained that whenever you choose to spread mulch in your garden, “the same rules apply” in terms of how to make it and where to use it.
How to make mulch
Monty recommended using a well-rotted organic material such as mushroom compost, garden compost or bark chips to enrich the mulch ready for your plants. He said: “We use pine bark on the grass borders for a little extra acidity, and be generous with it.”
Other ingredients you can add to winter mulch include straw, leaves, pine needles, newspaper, grass clippings and cocoa bean hulls – all of which should be combined in similar quantities.
Once the organic matter has been mixed together, you can get started on spreading it around plant beds in your outdoor space.
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In winter, the mulch will protect the plants from frost and help to keep the soil warm, so it’s important to be generous with your application.
While it’s not always necessary, doing some weeding beforehand will benefit your plants if you have time though the mulch itself should help to suppress further growth.
Monty said: “Spread the mulch around all existing plants at least two inches thick and twice that is twice as good.
“In principle the thicker the mulch is the better it will do its work so it is more effective to mulch half the garden every other year well than all of it annually but inadequately.”
A shovel is the best tool to spread the layer over the soil bed as long as you take care not to lift existing growth.
While applying it you should take care to pull the mulch away from the base of the plants. This is especially important in shady areas because it will protect the plants from mould, rot, and insects.
If you’re planting new things in your garden this January, you can simply add a layer of mulch as you do it to create a shield against ice and frost from the get-go.
One wheelbarrow full of mulch should be plenty for the average garden though if you make too much, you can store it for another day.
A gardening expert at The Dirt Bag recommended poking a few small holes in a garden bag to improve circulation before filling it up with leftovers.
If you don’t have a suitable bag, you can keep the surplus on a tarp and cover the pile with a second tarp to keep the supply dry. The gardening expert recommended leaving some of the edges free so that air can easily flow underneath the tarp and through the mulch.
Whether you keep it covered or in a bag, mulch can be stored in a dry area for the winter, such as a garage or garden shed. If you have extra compost spare after mulching, you should also ensure it has plenty of air flow while in storage.
The Dirt Bag expert said: “You need to turn the compost every now and then to bring up the damp bottom layer – so, we recommend emptying the bagged compost into a couple of inexpensive garbage cans or plastic storage bins.”
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