Which mulch is best to use in winter?


Mulching is an easy way to protect your soil until you’re ready to use it in spring.

Words: Nadene Hall

If you have a bare garden over winter, then mulching will save you time clearing opportunistic weeds, plus it’s good for your soil.

If your timing is off and you haven’t got a green cover crop in for winter, or you’ve just run out of time to get a crop in for over-wintering, then you may end up with a patch of garden bed that is just bare soil.

But leaving it bare isn’t good for the soil, as it can affect all those beneficial soil microbes you need to keep healthy, plus weeds tend to like to fill the void.

Mulching is a convenient and easy way to protect a soil until you’re ready to use it. The Biological Husbandry Unit at Lincoln University have outlined the effects of different types of mulch.



Blank: No significant action (or negative), +: Okay, ++ Good, +++: Excellent

  Straw Clippings Compost Manure Plastic
Lift Organic Matter ++ + +++ ++  
Add Nutrients ++ +++ +++ +++  
Control Weeds ++ ++ + + +++
Conserve Moisture +++ +++ +++ ++ +++
Reduce Temperature Fluctuations +++ +++ +++ ++ +
Increase Temperature ++ ++ + + +++
Improve Microbial Activity ++ ++ +++ +++  
Aid Earthworms + ++ +++ +++  
Erosion Control ++ ++ ++ ++ ++
Control Leaching ++ + ++ ++ +++
Long Lasting ++ + + + +++
Biodegradable +++ +++ +++ +++  

The amount of nutrients added as a mulch depend of course on the type and amount of mulch used.

Mulching is not right for every system.  It can be very labour intensive though there are possibilities of machine laying of plastic or paper mulches.  It may also get in the way of required operations on the soil e.g. controlling perennial weeds that will overcome or survive the mulch.

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