When to Mulch Your Vegetable Garden

Choosing a mulch and deciding when to use it in your vegetable garden depends on the type of vegetables that you grow and when you plant them. Check out these mulching tips for different types of vegetables:

  • Cool-season vegetables planted in early spring: You want the sun to warm your soil in the spring because lots of sun helps young plants get off to a fast start.

    Here are a few mulching pointers for these vegetables:

    • Lay down organic mulch when the soil starts to warm and when the plants need regular water. If you mulch too early, the soil stays too cold and wet for proper root growth.

    • In areas with short growing seasons, you can plant broccoli, cauliflower, and cool-season plants through black plastic measuring 1-1/2 mils thick (.0015 inches). Clear plastic warms up the soil quickly, but it also helps weed seeds to germinate, so don't use it. Cover the plastic with organic matter when the weather warms to keep the soil cool.

  • Cool-season vegetables planted in late summer or early fall: With these vegetables, you want the cooling effect, so put down an organic mulch right after planting.

    Here are a few other pointers to keep in mind:

    • When the weather starts to cool, rake off or remove the organic mulch so the soil warms.

    • You can plant through plastic late in the year, but you should cover it with an organic mulch immediately so the soil doesn't get too hot. Then remove the organic mulch when the weather cools and let the plastic warm the soil through harvest.

    • Many root crops can be stored in the ground well into winter if you cover them with a thick organic mulch like straw. Applied before the ground freezes, the mulch keeps the soil loose and unfrozen so you can dig the vegetables later into winter.

  • Warm-season vegetables planted in spring: With these vegetables, keep the ground clear if you're planting really early — the more heat the better. Planting through plastic works in early spring. In hot climates, apply an organic mulch when the weather starts to get really warm in summer.

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