Why You Should Consider Mulching in Late Fall or Early Winter

When you think about that fresh smell of mulch, it probably conjures images of bright sunshine, rising temperatures, and blooming plants. That’s really no surprise since most people do the majority of their mulching during spring.

While it’s true that spreading a fresh layer of mulch in your beds during mid or late spring is a great way to help your plants thrive all summer long, it’s not the only time of year you should be mulching. There are lots of benefits to mulching in late fall or early winter, and fresh mulch is one of the best ways to protect your plants from winter weather.

But before we dive into why mulching later in the year is a good idea, let’s get a quick refresher about why mulching is such an important part of landscape maintenance:

  • It’s great for controlling weeds, as mulch blocks light that weeds need to grow.
  • Mulch adds nutrients to soil, especially as it starts to disintegrate over time.
  • Your flowers, trees, and shrubs will have a much easier time retaining water when you spread mulch around them. This means healthier roots, and less watering for you.
  • Mulch regulates soil temperature, which is key because roots can be damaged when exposed to rapid temperature changes.
  • It also helps keep your soil and beds intact when subjected to heavy storms and rain.

There’s no doubt mulching can help your plants thrive. But since adding mulch is all about encouraging growth during the growing season, it begs the question: Why would I ever mulch in late fall or early winter?

We’re glad you asked. Because at first glance it might seem like a waste of mulch—or even worse, like it could damage your plants. But when done properly, mulching late in the year can improve the health of your plants, and can protect them from potentially deadly winter weather. Here’s how:

  • Later in the year, the ground will often freeze. Especially here in Indiana where we can have big temperature swings in just 24 hours, soil will be frozen one day and thawing the next. This is particularly stressful for plant roots, but mulch will insulate them and limit these swings in temperature.
  • Mulching in late fall or early winter will make your job much easier when spring comes. Your beds will already have a good base of mulch, and you’ll only need to refresh your beds with a thin layer.
  • In the spring, your beds will be full of new plant growth. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to suffocate this new growth with mulch. But when you mulch in fall, you won’t have to worry about this since growth has slowed down and your plants are already well established.
  • Spreading mulch is hard work. It’s a much easier job later in the year when temperatures are more tolerable.

Now that you know why mulching late in the year can be so beneficial, here are a few more things to consider:

  • After the first several major frosts, it’s probably too late to spread mulch—the ground will already be frozen. It’s important to get the job done before temperatures reach their lowest point. That said, an ideal time to spread mulch is right after the first big frost.
  • Choose an organic mulch that will last until spring. Pine bark is typically a good option. You may also want to pay attention to the color of your hardscaping features and get mulch that complements them.
  • Don’t be afraid to spread a pretty thick layer. A good two to four inches will get the job done.
  • Keep a close eye on your perennials and don’t bury them. You don’t want to limit their growth in spring.

Our team at Engledow knows a thing or two about mulch. We’ve been helping our clients protect their plants and beds with it for many years. If you have any questions about mulching in late fall or early winter—or if you need help choosing the right mulch and spreading it on your landscape—don’t hesitate to contact us today!


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