Wake Up and Smell the...Mulch!

(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

In our household, the scent of spring is the woodsy, earthy smell of mulch! However, mulch can be added to your garden any time of year depending on your garden's needs.

Applying a layer of organic mulch in spring will help maintain soil moisture and control weeds. Mulching also insulates soils keeping them warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Mulching in late fall after the ground has frozen can help protect tender perennials. Any time of year, organic compost mulches enrich and loosen the soil!

Mulch is also an important component of conservation landscaping. Mulched flower and vegetable beds may not need watering as frequently. As a result, you conserve water (and time and money!). Mulching also prevents weed growth and can reduce our reliance on pesticides that can be unhealthy for our families and the environment.

Mulching is one of the most beneficial ways to keep our gardens happy and healthy. Whether you choose bark, leaves, straw, hardwood or compost, mulch is good for the garden and the environment.

A few guidelines for good mulching:

  • Everything is better in moderation, even mulch. Apply a 2-4 inch mulch layer.
  • If you don't need it, don't do it! Hardwood or bark mulches may not need replacing every year.
  • Despite the appeal of those attractive mulch mountains, don't pile mulch against tree trunks or plant stems. It can stress plants causing insect and disease problems.
  • Weed and water your beds before mulching. This will decrease the chances of contaminating your mulch with weed seeds and encourage good moisture penetration.


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