How to Make Mulch (Preparing the Garden and Flowers for Winter)

by Merissa on September 5, 2013

in Gardening 101

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How to Make Mulch

Mulching is an important step in vegetable gardening. Without mulch weeds can take over pretty quickly and many vegetable and fruit plants can’t regulate moisture properly without some type of padding to help keep moisture in during the hotter weeks of summer. There are different types of mulch and you can even learn how to make mulch from everyday household items.

During the cold months good mulch will also keep heat in and prevent snow and ice from penetrating roots. During the summer months a good mulching will keep water in, providing a consistent temperature for roots deep down in the soil bed. There are two types of mulches; organic and inorganic. Organic mulch will decompose, enriching the soil. Inorganic won’t decompose but is sometimes better for beds depending on the circumstances.

how to make mulch

Over the years I have used a lot of things to create mulch, including newspaper I had gathered from our Sunday coupon inserts and shredded paper from my shredded bills. You can make mulch with grass clippings, burlap bags, straw, hay, nut casings, wood chips and crushed shell mulches. The type of mulch is going to depend on what you want your garden to look like. If you want a clean well put together garden that neighbors will stop by and gawk at then you probably wouldn’t want to go with recycled materials  like newspaper or shredding but if you are wanting to garden for food and don’t care how the garden looks then recycled mulch is much cheaper and better for the environment. By applying mulch to your vegetable beds and flower beds you will spend less time watering, weeding and less pest problems.

Serves as a Protective Barrier 

During the fall and winter months mulch serves as a protective barrier from environmental conditions. During winter time temperatures can quickly plummet into below freezing and plants are extremely vulnerable to freezing conditions. When it snows or rains heavily and it is within freezing conditions the roots of plants are in danger of freezing; mulch protects the plant from dying. When choosing mulch for this purpose it is important to consider how cold your area gets and what your plants needs are. Burlap bags layered over the beds with a second layer of thick straw will keep the ground from freezing. Choosing mulch, like wood chips and bark mulch that supply warmth is a good idea for plants that are not cold weather verities. The most important thing is that you have a layer of protection between the ground surrounding a plant and the cold conditions. Apply mulch before the first frost and add additional mulch if you are expecting a heavy freeze or snow.

how to make mulch

Keeps Moisture In and Keeping Weeds Out 

Tomatoes, peppers, squash and a lot of other vegetables love moisture and organic material added to the soil. The richer the soil is the better the plant will thrive and the bigger peppers and tomatoes will get. Tomatoes love warmth and lots of moisture so laying a thick covering of straw will ensure tomatoes have plenty of moisture and a consistent temperature to keep their roots warm during cold fronts. Spreading mulch is probably the best time saving technique for keeping away weeds. Weeds prevent plants from getting all the nutrients from the soil so you should always weed around vegetable beds before planting. Mulch blocks the light, preventing new weeds from growing. You do need to clear weeds from the ground before spreading mulch and should not use grass clipping from spring as the clipping will likely contain seeds and the seeds will spout. Mulching is a great time saver for the home gardener. You can use mulch not just for vegetable gardening but for all gardening needs including around trees and shrubbery.

Ready to learn more about gardening? Check out our Gardening 101 page!

Thanks to Emily, a Little House Living reader, for this post on how to make mulch!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Debbie September 5, 2013 at 10:05 am

Great to know! I had never thought of using newspaper! I may do this around my berry bushes and grape vines this fall. I’m going to be transplanting a few more grapes as well and what better timing!


2 Denise September 6, 2013 at 12:59 am

How do you garden in an RV?


3 Merissa September 6, 2013 at 8:21 am

I don’t. We are currently living with family and they have a big garden. But of course I’ve had a garden every other year but this one!


4 Denise September 7, 2013 at 8:32 pm

I think it is so neat what you are doing. It has been a dream of mine to travel with my family in an RV. We also are fellow adoptive parents. Love your blog!


5 Amy Lynn Desrosiers September 10, 2013 at 7:35 am

We plan on purchasing a chipper to make mulch for our gardens. We use it in our gardens, and flower beds.


6 Jenny September 10, 2013 at 7:41 am

i should show this to my husband. he’d love it since he’s always looking for mulch for our garden~


7 Heather Flaherty (PCAHeather) September 10, 2013 at 8:55 am

Thank you for the information I will be sharing it with my SIL who has a green thumb unlike my own black one… I am sure she will find this very helpful


8 Malia September 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Great information! I don’t garden but have been wanting to start.


9 Carmen's Coupon Blog September 10, 2013 at 2:55 pm

I didn’t know that mulch was important. I have tried several years in a row to have my own vegetable garden and they always get weeds, or don’t grow like they should.. or dry out.. no matter how much water I put in them.. I will try this with my next attempt at gardening..


10 Ave September 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Didn’t know much about mulch, but after reading your post, seems that it’s really important for plants. Thanks for sharing!


11 Joanne September 10, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Wow – great tutorial! Much better to make it yourself than buy it.


12 Alecia @ Chicken Scratch NY September 10, 2013 at 5:39 pm

We are lazy gardeners and we love mulch! When we plant our garlic in the fall we cover it with hay or straw, it mostly breaks down over the winter then we add another layer in the spring and summer and we hardly ever have to weed. It’s awesome!


13 Melanie a/k/a CrazyMom September 10, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Thanks for sharing, we always need a ton of mulch here in Florida and we keep the plants cool and hydrated in the summer and warm in the winter. Great post.


14 Summer September 10, 2013 at 9:07 pm

My husband has talked about making his own mulch, I will have to show him this.


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