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CityLink Seattle

Mulch: Saves Water and Reduces Pesticide Use

Mulch is a material placed on the surface of your soil to suppress weeds and maintain soil moisture. Why is mulch important? It makes the garden grow year-round!

Fall is an ideal time to mulch, particularly after your fall weeding and after the fall rains have thoroughly moistened the soil.

During the rainy season, mulch protects the soil from erosion and from losing nutrients that the rain can wash away. Mulch also helps to suppress the germination of annual weed seeds, including many which crop up during early spring.

The first flush of warm spring weather gives a jump start to weeds; you’ll be glad your mulch is already in place! Mulch will also retain soil moisture and delay the need for supplemental watering. When you do begin watering, mulch will help reduce how often you need to water. Mulch will keep plants’ roots cooler as the weather heats up, benefitting plant health.

When plants are actively growing, the gradual decomposition of mulch supplies the soil with organic matter and beneficial microbes that enable plants to use soil nutrients.

Year-round beauty. Mulch can help visually tie your garden together by providing a consistent texture to your beds.

Which mulch is best for your plants?

Wood chips work best with shrubs and trees. Chips last the longest, feed the soil gradually, are most resistant to weed germination and can be found at local arborists or tree services for free.

Compost works well with food gardens and in perennial or mixed beds. Compost provides a nutritional boost to gardens, improving soil structure and feeding your plants.

Fallen leaves can be left whenever they fall; it may be one of the easiest mulches for your garden. For a finer texture, you may shred them with a lawn mower. Be sure to put diseased leaves in your curbside yard waste collection.

Sawdust/manure blends function well in gardens whose soils are cultivated regularly. Sawdust provides a consistent texture to your garden, but tends to be compacted over time, which then reduces the water and air available for the surface layers of the soil.

Grass clippings serve as easy and free and non-toxic fertilizer for your lawn.