by Jamie Henrichsen
Henrichsen Wood






Mulch is a wonderful thing. It improves your soil structure and conserves water. Mulching is easy to do.


Mulch is a blanket

Flowers love mulch!


Mulch protects soil and roots from temperature extremes. It’s a blanket for the soil. Mulch keeps soil cool in the summer and warm in winter. Tender plant roots, earthworms and soil microbes love mulch.


Soil is preserved from erosion during a downpour with a heavy covering of mulch. Mulch allows the rain to soak in rather than run off by slowing it down.





This volunteer watermelon enjoyed growing in a bed mulched with coarse sand.



Mulch keeps plants from drying out. You don’t need to water plants near as often compared to areas of turf or bare soil. In my garden I grow a bounty of watermelon every year and never water it. Ever.


Mulch is fertilizer

Decomposed mulch makes rich soil

Wood chips break down in a few years and improve soil.



When an organic mulch decomposes, it improves the soil. In heavy clay it will help the soil become lighter and drain easier. In sandy soils it will help retain moisture. Decomposed mulch also provides nutrients and fertilizer to the plants and soil it protects.






Mulch makes life BETTER!

Mulch can help suppress weeds too. The weeds that do make it through a thick layer of mulch are much easier to pull.


Soil borne diseases spread to plants when raindrops splash mud on them. If you cover the soil around the base of plants, that won’t happen. If your garden paths and beds are mulched, you won’t track near so much mud in your house.



Mulch is natural

Forest Floor

The forest floor is covered in mulch.


Trees and plants naturally produce mulch. A forest is full of mulch. Deciduous trees drop leaves in the Fall.  Ancient trees fall to the forest floor to give back nutrients they’ve stored for ages.  Litter from twigs, fallen branches, leaves and needles are quietly recycled into the rich dark soil that forests are made from.







What can I use for mulch?

Onions mulched with straw

These cozy onions have been put to bed for winter with a blanket of straw mulch.

People use all sorts of things for mulch. Fallen leaves, cardboard, junk mail, straw, pine needles, bark, newspaper, gravel and sand are just a few things I’ve used. Be careful of using anything toxic (like Black Walnut) or otherwise harmful. 


You can get mulch free or buy it. The important thing is to get some. Most tree services are happy to give you a whole dump truck load of wood chips. Wait for the saws and chipper to power down then ask politely if they’d like to dump those chips in your garden.





How much should I use?

Mulch should be applied two or three inches thick around trees and plants. Keep mulch from piling against the base of plants and trees.


When to mulch

So when’s the best time to mulch?

Right now.

When I see a bare patch of dirt, I cover it as soon as I can. It’s best to get your mulch in before the frosts come. Protect plants from the cold with mulch. Mulch before heavy winter rains wash away soil nutrients. Mulch before the sun dries up the all the rain.  Cover up old mulch with new mulch. Mulch anytime you can.



Photos courtesy of Jamie and Leah Henrichsen




Jamie Henrichsen lives in the Lake Norman area and is a lifelong gardener. In 2015 he mulched over his entire front lawn with wood chips to grow watermelons and flowers with his wonderful wife Leah. Jamie owns and operates Henrichsen Wood, a Mobile Sawmill and Tree Service. He can be reached at Check out his website at