March 5, 2009

Composting my garden beds in the winter

When is the perfect time to apply compost to your garden beds? – In winter, of course!  It may seem a bit strange to be top-dressing gardens during the winter, but if you live in a cold area, as I do, it really makes a lot of sense.  I like to make sure that my gardens have a nice, thick layer of composted mulch as they begin their growing season.  Experienced gardeners know that one of the best ways to control weeds in a garden is to lay down a blanket of mulch.  But, weed control is only one reason for mulching a garden.  If you use a fluffy, organic matter, and spread it at least two-inches thick, the mulch will insulate the garden bed, keeping the hot summer sun from heating the soil to a temperature that would inhibit root growth. Mulch is also a wonderful aid to water conservation because that layer blocks the evaporation of moisture off the soil surface.  In fact, in arid climates, applying mulch to a garden can reduce the need for watering by as much as a half.  And if all this weren’t enough, as it decomposes, organic mulch, adds humus to the soil – a way of continuously composting the entire garden.

So why apply it during winter? – Because the soil in my beds is still frozen and very few of my spring bulbs have made an emergence.  This makes it much easier for the ground’s crew to spread that mulch.  Plus, they can walk gingerly on the beds without worry of harming plants and the compost can easily be applied in a nice thick and even layer.  Try mulching in your garden – I think you will be pleasantly happy.

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