Fall Mulch Tips

Protect your Zone 4 perennials during the winter with mulch from natural resources. This method is Eco-friendy and recycles grass and pine needles to be used as mulch.

What do you do with all the leaves and pine needles that fall from the trees? I used to bag them up and unload them on the corn field off the lawn, but now I have a better idea.

In the past 3 seasons, I have used any thing I can for mulch on my perennial beds, including grass mulch in the summer on some of the out lying beds that have larger shrubs and plants in them.

On my website I have an article I wrote last fall about bagging and using the leaves and grass and pine needle mixture on the perennial beds. I must say, I sure like the free mulch, and I sure like the fact that it doesn’t cost me anything! I have to get rid of the leaves in the fall anyway so I may as well put them to good use.

I first heard of this through a speaker I had heard speak, Pam Duthie.  She has written a couple of gardening books, and is from Illinois. She said she double mowed all her leaves and then when the ground was frozen, put them on her beds 4-6” thick.

She said the plants came up through the leaves in the spring and the leaves would work their way into the soil to make a wonderful rich planting bed.

Now, for years, I have used grass mulch in the summer on some beds so last fall I thought I would try out the fall mulching. I laid out a couple of large tarps and put the leaves on top.

Now, ideally, the plan is to leave them there until the ground freezes and then put them on. Well, last fall, it rained whenever I had time to do it, and the ground didn’t freeze before we got the first dump of snow.

So, the leaves stayed on the tarp all winter. I spread them around the plants this spring, and if you get it on the beds early, the grass won’t kill out where the tarps were laid. Where it was a bit later, the grass grew back fast enough.  This was also in an area off the main lawn where the leaf pile wasn’t such an eyesore.

So, this year, I am mowing and bagging and putting the mulch on the beds this fall, right now. I may not get it all spread out this fall, but I put a half bag here and there wherever there is an empty space.

The reason to wait to put it on after the ground freezes is for little critters to not want to move in and build nests in the mulch and use the plants and trees for food. So, hopefully I will get it spread out among the perennials this fall and have the lawn all cleaned up and ready for spring.

When spreading mulch, weather it is leaves in the fall, or grass clippings in the summer, or wood chips, keep it 2-3 inches away from the base of the plant to deter insects from making their home in your plants. Also, don’t put mulch of any kind closer than 4 inches from a tree trunk for the same reason. I see way too many yards with cones of mulch a foot high up on the tree trunk. It creates a very moist place that insects love.

In case you are wondering, I cut everything down in the fall (except for grasses and some of the sedums) and haul it away. I don’t have time in the spring to do it and our yard doesn’t warm up so fast with the big shade trees. (which is a good thing if we have a late freeze or two).

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

al August 4, 2016 at 12:48 pm

hi, i live in eastern pa. near easton, and have + or – 300 hastas. don’t know what most of them are named except a few. i have from 2″ to 6’+ mature size. i remove all the flower stalks as soon as they are above the plant. my thing…. we love hostas and daylilies( about 100) plus. and many many other flowers and small trees. will be waiting for your updates with interest.


Judi August 4, 2016 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for checking out my website. I do not have a major problem with deer. But, Deer LOVE Hosta and if you live in an area where there are many of them roaming around, probably a tall fence is the only thing that will work for sure.
There is a spray you can buy called Repellex (and other brands also) that has worked most of the time for me. It is dried blood meal and doesn’t smell very good and tastes bad.
You buy concentrate and mix it with water and a sprayer. You can use a small sprayer. But you have to start early in the spring, even before you think about planting anything or anything is up and keep putting it on especially if there are a lot of deer. And, repeat the application as needed. You want to wear gloves and don’t be downwind when you spray. Probably old jacket too, etc.
There is also Irish Spring bar soap that you can shave off and put around the plants, or put it in netting and hang it up in a tree close by, but that you have to replace too.
And, there are little containers that you can buy that you put garlic in and poke them in the ground around the plants you want to protect. I am sure that you can buy them on line at a garden center.
There are many other products in the market place that may work. Check them out on line.
Sometimes a dog is very helpful in the yard to keep them away.
There is also a forum on Face Book with the American Hosta Society that people from all over the world write and ask questions and it can be very helpful.
There is no tried and true answer and if you live in an area that is heavily populated by deer it can be very hard to see all your nice plants eaten away. I get upset when there is one munched on!
I hope I have helped you out. Judi from Favorite Perennials.


Oliver Worker February 25, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Hey Judi,

Your garden looks wonderful. It inspires me to try similar with this in the future. Thanks for the tips! Glad that I’ve landed here.



Judi February 26, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Thank you for the nice compliment!
Judi recently posted…Spring Is In The Air…But Stay Out Of The Flowerbeds!My Profile


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