Planters are often under the illusion that mulching is for the sweet season of summer as it cools the soils, enhances soil texture, raises soil fertility and increases the earthworm population. However, the arrival of autumn does not mean the descent of mulch! Just as mulch conserves moisture and keeps the soil cool in the summer, autumn mulch acts as a winter warmer – a baby’s ‘blankie’ – for your plants and soil. It helps protect them from the incursion of winter.
1.Autumn mulching creates an isolation layer and conserves soil moisture
Mulch creates a layer above your soil that acts a protective agent. Soils that are layered with mulch are much warmer in the cooler autumn and winter seasons, protecting the plant roots from injuries sustainable in freezing weather conditions. The mulch barrier keeps out the ice-cold autumn-pre-winter weather and locks the heat inside. In effect, plant roots are protected, soil moisture is preserved and soil is prevented from washing or blowing away in harsh winds. The rapid fluctuations in soil temperature during the cold month is protected by mulch. These climate changes have devastating effects on your plants – heaving them out of the soil, loss of moisture when moisture is evaporated through bare soil surfaces, root desiccation and even death.
These destructive effects can be avoided by simply adding a layer of mulch onto your soil.
2.Autumn mulching improves the soil’s physical structure and fertility
In the process of natural mulch breaking down, the mulch attaches humus to the soil which then raises organic matter on the surface of clay soils. This process causes the water holding capacity of light and sandy soils to improve and finally, it slowly releases nitrogen and phosphorous into the soil.
Organic mulches such as straw, shredded leaves, nut hulls, aged sawdust, aged manure, evergreen branches, pine needles and wood chips, are valuable in aerating the soil as it shapes the soil in a manner that is easy to work with. It also provides food for crucial and beneficial creatures that live in soil, such as earthworms and microbes.
3.Autumn mulching prevents erosion and water runoff
Rain or sprinkler droplets cause bare soil to disperse and erode. Mulching the soil prevents such conditions by decreasing the water runoff, acting as ‘sponge’ and soaking up water causing it to slow down rather than break the soil apart.
4.Autumn mulching reduces root competition
Another interesting advantage of applying mulch under trees and shrubs is the reduction of root competition. As a lot of trees’ roots are on the upper parts of the soil, they face competition from other plants and trees as to who will get the water and nutrients. When one applies mulch under trees and shrubs, it eliminates that competition and provides the trees with moisturizing soil and the water and nutrients that they require.
It is clear that mulching in autumn carries layers of benefits. This natural soil blanket is an investment as the cost of replacing your beauties is much heavier on your pockets than is the cost of mulching. Moreover, mulching a landscape looks more appealing and unifies the overall scene. Put a mulch blanket around your tree baby and ensure its warmth during this cold season. Winter is coming, don’t let the plants suffer