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Mulching Fall Flowerbeds – How To Stop Next Year’s Weeds Now!

One of the best ways to prevent weeds from overtaking your flowerbeds next year is by mulching your beds this fall.

Mulching flowerbeds before winter might seem a bit out of the ordinary. After all, although many homeowners are more than happy to spruce up their beds in the spring, few seldom think about applying a second layer late in the growing season.

In fact, many might think of it as a waste of time and mulch with winter just around the corner. But believe it or not, it’s actually just as important as spring mulching for the health and maintenance of your perennial beds.

mulchign in spring and fall
Although nearly all gardeners mulch in the spring – few mulch in the fall.

The list of benefits from a fall layer of mulch are actually quite impressive. Here is a look at how applying a protective mulch now can pay off next year with fewer weeds, bigger blooms – and far less work for you!

The Benefits Of Fall Mulching

Not only does a fall layer of mulch prevent weeds seeds from finding a home to overwinter, it also helps retain valuable moisture. Moisture that the roots of perennial plants need to survive throughout the long, dark months of winter.

In addition, fall mulching is pivotal in helping to regulate soil temperatures from the wild swings winter can bring. Like hard frosts, deep freezes – and warm days that thaw the soil out in quick fashion.

mulching flowerbeds in the fall
A thick layer of fresh fall mulch can help protect perennials in the winter from the harshness of multiple freezing and thawing cycles.

All of which, if the roots of perennials are not properly protected, can injure or even kill plants entirely.

Mulching Fall Flowerbeds – The Secrets To Success

The first key to success for mulching flowerbeds in the fall is getting the mulch down at the right time.

As perennials begin to fade and die back in mid to late autumn, they often leave bare soil in their wake. And that bare soil is exactly where weed seeds find a home to become next year’s weeding problems.

mulching in the fall
Leaving flowerbeds bare for winter can spell big problems next year!

The key is to clear the foliage as it begins to die back, and then immediately protect the open area with mulch. Do this, and weed seeds simply can’t find a home to germinate later. But allow the soil to sit bare for a few weeks and then mulch – and you only help insulate the weed seeds too!

Keep Existing Mulch In Place – Mulching Fall Flowerbeds

Another big “secret” to success when mulching in the fall is to never disturb the existing mulch. Many gardeners make the critical mistake of raking, or “turning-over” the mulch already in place.

Unfortunately, although it may freshen up the look of the beds temporarily, it also creates problems Most notable of which is replanting weed seeds that were laying harmlessly on top of the existing mulch.

stirring mulch
Raking mulch in existing beds allows weed seeds on top to find a home in the soil below to sprout.

Once turned over, these seeds can now lay in wait to germinate next spring and summer. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, you have multiplied your weeding chores for next year!

Before fall mulching, simply clear the flowerbeds of any existing weeds, and add a new layer of mulch directly on top. How much mulch is enough?

Compost Bins

A good rule of thumb for maximum protection is to have four to six inches of mulch in place before winter. This is more than enough to help suppress existing weeds, keep soil temps regulated, and most importantly, keep new weed seeds from blowing in and finding bare soil.

Selecting The Right Mulch – Mulching Fall Flowerbeds

So that leads to another oft-asked question – what is the right mulch to use? When it comes to protecting perennial flowerbeds, hardwood and hardwood bark top our list of best choices.

Natural, organic selections like bark and hardwood mulch not only provide good protection for the soil and plants, they also add organic material as they break down.

mulching fall flowerbeds
As perennials begin to fade in the fall, it is time to get mulching!

But be careful not to hardwood mulch that is too finely shredded. The more finely shredded mulch is, the faster it disappears.

Although triple-shredded mulch may look beautiful when you place it down, it won’t last nor protect long. Instead, select single or double shredded versions to extend the life and protection levels for your beds and plants.

Although rock, stone and even synthetic mulches can be used, they are not the best choices. They simply don’t have the weed-stopping and plant protecting power found in organic mulches. In addition, these materials will not add any additional nutrients to the soil over time. (See: Selecting The Best Mulch For Your Flowerbeds & Garden)

Fill Those Flowerbeds! – Mulching Fall Flowerbeds

One final note on fall flowerbed maintenance. Autumn is the perfect time to dig up existing perennials that may have grown too large for their space.

Not only will it help keep plants healthy and blooming strong, it creates tons of new free plants. Plants you can then use to fill open spaces. And there is simply no better way to crowd out weeds than with more plants!

perennial flowerbeds full
The more you pack flowerbeds with plants, the less mulch you will need. And even better – it creates less space for weeds too!

Even better, it saves on mulching materials and time. All while creating great looking beds full of foliage and color! So here is to mulching those flowerbeds this fall. A good layer of protection now means less work for you next spring and summer!

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