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Fall Mulching Tips for California Plants & Landscapes

A little prep work now can save you hours of effort come spring when it comes to your flower beds, garden, and landscaping needs. Add a layer of mulch to the surface of your soil to insulate your plant roots from the harsh chill of winter. Create a warmer environment for the earthworms and microbes so that they can continue improving the quality of your soil, while also retaining moisture in California’s more arid regions. Assure that your bare soil is protected from erosion, and suppress the potential of weed growth come next year. The short and long-term benefits of adding mulch highly outweigh the cost of spending a cool weekend tackling the heavy job.

Learn more about why you should mulch in the fall, tips that will help you save time and energy in the long run, and the best mulches to use for your specific needs. Your plants, vegetables, decorative landscaping, and walkways will thank you.

Why Mulch in the Fall

Many gardeners and landscapers highly recommend adding mulch to your soil in the fall for a plethora of reasons. In some cases the practice is in lieu of mulching in the spring, whereby you’ll be busy planting, pruning, and spreading seeds, so planning ahead helps save you time. In most scenarios the following benefits apply:

  • Fall mulch insulates and protects plant roots that reside in the top few inches of soil from the persistent freeze-thaw patterns that put stress on them.
  • Mulch acts like a warm incubator for the soil microbiome so that the ecosystem remains healthy. Earthworms and microbes are able to stay alive a little longer so that they can continue to do their job in making your soil rich with nutrients.
  • Suppress weed growth while also protecting your plants from moisture loss and dramatic shifts in temperature. Mulch helps your soil retain moisture, especially in clay prominent regions.
  • Protect your decorative landscaping, pathways, walkways, and playgrounds from soil erosion during the winter months. This is especially necessary if your area is susceptible to wind, rain, or surface runoff.

Fall Mulching Tips

Knowing that it is helpful to add mulch to your soil in the fall is beneficial, but there are more tips to take into consideration before you start the process. Here are five easy “to do’s” that will help improve your results.

  1. Wait until the first hard freeze and once all the plants in your annual flower or vegetable garden have been harvested or are dead. Avoid starting too early.
  2. Remove all weeds and plant debris from the area. If the spent flowers and vegetable matter appear disease free you can compost it, otherwise dispose of it in your GreenWaste bin.
  3. Cut back perennial stems to 6- to 12-inch stubs so you can apply mulch evenly around them, and avoid layering it too deeply over perennial plant crowns.
  4. Avoid letting your mulch pile accumulate snow if you’re in an area in which that may happen.
  5. Choose the right mulch that best suits your gardening or landscaping needs, and apply the proper amount. See below for suggestions.

Best Mulches to Use in Fall for California

The key to using mulch is choosing the right one for your needs. Below is a simple breakdown on which products help in particular scenarios and approximately how much mulch to apply.

For vegetable garden beds

Mini Mulch Fir Bark & Small Fir Bark

The bark of fir trees is very attractive and makes an excellent mulch for vegetable garden beds. The Mini Mulch decomposes faster than Small mulch, but both will eventually turn into organic soil amendment. For aesthetic purposes, be advised that the sun fades the natural red bark to a weathered grey over time.
*Apply a 2”-3” layer above your soil for best results.

Best to improve the quality of your soil:

Premium Arbor Mulch

Premium Arbor Mulch is 100% clean tree trimming from local urban forests that contains a conglomerate of bark, wood chips, and some leaves. The mixture provides protection and food for the life in your soil as it decomposes to turn into organic soil amendment over time.
*Apply a 3 inch layer for best results.

Shredded Cedar Bark

Shredded Cedar Bark is a stringy, and fibrous bark that ranges in size around 1-3 inches and less. Cedar is a great option to naturally repel insects and pests due to the natural oils in the bark. Shredded Cedar Bark does compact more easily, so raking it and fluffing the mulch will give it a better look.
*Apply a 2”-4” layer for best results.

Best for indoor potted plants:

Ground Redwood Bark

Ground Redwood Bark is the bark from redwood trees that have been double ground. It is a stringy, fluffy, and fibrous bark that ranges in size around 1-2 inches and less. Often referred to as “Gorilla Hair” or “Monkey Fur, it holds onto water and is lightweight. We do not recommend this product for windy areas, however it is excellent for potted plants. Depending on the grade, it holds well in moderately sloped areas.
*Apply a 3 inch layer for best results.

Best for decorative landscaping:

Mahogany Chip & Mocha Chip

Mahogany Chip and Mocha Chip are attractive processed wood products that are dyed with a natural UV protectant color, ferric oxide. As clean byproducts from sawmills, no post consumer wood is used so it remains paint and toxin free. Both are great for commercial applications or wherever longevity of the vibrant color is desired.

Sizes may vary, so if you need a specific size and/or are matching an existing product it’s best to check with the Lyngso team prior to ordering. Please note that although it retains its color longer than most non-colored chips, the color vibrancy may fade if it is exposed to water or sits in water for an extended period of time. For this reason we advise a post rainy season install.

*Apply a 2”-3” layer for non-commercial applications, and a 3”-5” layer for commercial applications.

To combat erosion, these options are great for pathways and walkways.

Premium Arbor Mulch

Depending on the grade, Premium Arbor Mulch holds well in moderately sloped areas and is excellent for Sheet Mulching applications! Click on the link below to learn more about Sheet Mulching!

Walk on Bark

Great for pathways and walkways when Fir Bark is the desired visual effect. Walk on Fir Bark is a beautiful and economical alternative to Small Fir Bark and Mini Mulch Fir Bark when mulching your landscape project. It is mostly a mixture of 1″-3″ red/brown fir bark nuggets and cambium, however there could be some much larger pieces of material mixed in from time to time. Clean byproduct from sawmills, no post consumer wood is used.
*Apply a 2”-4” layer for walkways.

Wood Chips

Wood Chips are great for pathways, walkways, and larger landscaped areas. As a lighter colored mulch it will darken with age and have more of a sheen. Primarily redwood, however the product may contain a small amount of fir. Wood Chips take longer to decompose than other mulch so can be used in areas where mulch needs to last for a while.
*Apply a 2”-4” layer for walkways.

Best for children’s playgrounds:

Playground Fiber

Playground Fiber is engineered natural wood that is 1/2″ – 1″ in size and has been approved for use in public playgrounds, parks or pathways. It is made out of California white conifers, whereby the fiber is processed to have elongated blunt or soft chopped ends making it more resistant to splintering. Chips do not contain any toxins or chemical additives, nor does it have recycled by-products, processed woods or fillers.
*Apply a 4”-8” layer of Playground Fiber to create a good cushion.

Get a Head Start This Fall By Mulching

If you are one that loves getting a head start on next year’s gardening or landscaping project then adding mulch this fall will be your savior. Prepare your soil like you would prepare your children for the change in season by layering on a warm down jacket. Reap all the benefits come next spring with protected plant roots, higher quality soil life, less weeds, greater water retention, and minimal erosion. The experts can assure you won’t be disappointed.

If you have further questions or need assistance, our family at Lyngso is here to help! Please contact us.