Why You Should Be Mulching This Fall

There are many benefits to using mulch in your garden. It helps suppress weeds, provides habitat for beneficial organisms, and prevents erosion. Fall is a great time to employ mulch in your garden because it can help protect your plants and soil during the winter. It will also slowly break down adding organic material for the following season.

Create Simple Food Storage

In much of the southeast, it’s possible to store root crops right in the garden for at least part of the winter. Covering crops like storage carrots, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, and beets with a thick layer of mulch can provide them with a buffer of protection from freezing temperatures. They can be harvested as needed.

This strategy won’t work if you live somewhere the ground freezes.

Cover Open Soil

It’s best to never have open soil in your garden. Open soil is more susceptible to erosion and is a poor habitat for beneficial insects, bacteria, and fungi. If you didn’t get a chance to get a fall cover crop in, mulch is a good choice.

Protect Perennials

Perennials like strawberries, asparagus, rhubarb, and even chives benefit from being mulched in for the winter. It provides a buffer from temperature extremes and can prevent soil from heaving which can damage plants’ roots.

Avoid piling mulch too high around fruit trees though as this can create a place for rodents to gnaw on the tree’s bark. 

Keep Crops Weed Free

While there are certainly fewer weeds to worry about in the winter, it’s easy to let them get ahead of you in the spring. Keeping the weeds down with mulch can make it easier to get crops in the ground in spring and eliminate the need for tilling.

It’s also important to keep perennial onions, shallots, and garlic mulched and weed-free. Competing with weeds for space, light, and nutrients can result in smaller bulbs.

8 Tips to Help Your Garlic Thrive

What Mulch to Use

There are a number of mulches that are appropriate for fall gardening and many of them can be found for cheap or free. One of our favorites is old leaves. You can also use:

  • hay
  • pine needles
  • straw
  • shredded newspaper
  • wood chips
  • sawdust

Avoid using plastic, stones, or dyed mulches like certain wood chips and bark mulch.

Learn more about choosing the best mulch for your garden here.

When to Remove Mulch

In much of your garden, you can let the mulch break down naturally. However, there are a few places to pull it back in the spring. First, make sure to uncover perennials like strawberries and rhubarb (leave it around them though just not on top) as soon as the danger of a hard frost has passed. You’ll also need to pull it back to seed or transplant annuals.

Additionally, if you grow garlic it’s helpful to remove the mulch around it and stop watering about two weeks before you plan to harvest. This gives the garlic a chance to dry out and begin curing before harvest.



Listening & Growing: 5 Great Garden Podcasts

As gardeners, we strive to learn and grow a little each year. We expand our gardens, try new varieties, and work a little harder to improve our soil and keep the weeds under control. To help you learn a little more about sustainable agriculture, garden techniques, as well as gardening history and culture we collected five excellent podcasts.

The No-Till Market Garden Podcast

Dig deep into sustainable farming methods with The No-Till Market Garden Podcast. Created by The No-Till Growers, Jesse Frost, Jackson Rolett, and Joshua Sattin, it’s a great resource for home and commercial growers alike.

In each episode they interview a commercial grower practicing no-till agriculture. They discuss their knowledge, systems, and experiences providing the listener with valuable insight.

Black in the Garden

Self-proclaimed Plantrepreneur, Colah B Tawkin created her podcast, Black in the Garden when she found other gardening podcasts uninspiring. She wanted to share the black gardening experience so she created a podcast “that resides at the intersection of Black Culture and horticulture in a world where all the garden fairies and most of the gnomes are white. ”

Episodes will be “on a range of topics that directly influence and impact black plant keepers as we blackily impact and influence the world.”

Organic Gardener Podcast

Created by Jackie Marie Beyer, the Organic Gardener Podcast features interviews with home gardening experts, food activists, organic farmers, and more. Tune in to learn about everything plants from herbal medicine and foraging to growing flowers and soil health.

The Permaculture Podcast

Created by Scott Mann and co-hosted by David Bilbrey, The Permaculture Podcast is perfect for anyone wanting to create a more sustainable world. The duo interview a variety of permaculture experts, “if you’ve read a book on permaculture or attended a convergence, there’s a good chance you’ll find the author or speaker in the archives. If not, they’ll likely be on the show soon.”

They cover a wide range of topics from garden amendments and permaculture design to creating sustainable landscapes and socially responsible businesses.

Edible Activist Podcast

Join Melissa L. Jones on the Edible Activist Podcast as she interviews a diverse group of people of color on their journeys working in food and agriculture. She chats with “growers, farmers, artists, healers, and other extraordinary individuals, who exemplify activism in their own edible way.”

Next time you put on your headphones consider one of these awesome gardening podcasts.

2020 Collard Week

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange is proud to be a partner in The Heirloom Collard Project. In conjunction with The Utopian Seed Project, Seed Savers Exchange, Working Food, and The Culinary Seed Network we’re striving to build a coalition of seed stewards, gardeners, farmers, chefs, and seed companies working to preserve heirloom collard varieties and their culinary heritage.

Join us this December as we celebrate Collard Week!

This December 14-17, immerse yourself in food history, seed stewardship, gardening, farming, cooking, and more. Join the conversation as part of the Heirloom Collard Project!

All events start at 1 PM Eastern and will be live broadcasted via Culinary Breeding Network’s Youtube channel. All episodes will be approximately 1 hour in length.


Monday, December 14, 1 PM – Michael Twitty presents the History and Significance of Collards in the South

Michael Twitty will kick off Collard Week with a talk about the historical, culinary, and cultural heritage of collards in the South.

A 45 minute pre-recorded presentation will be followed by a Live Q&A with award-winning author, Michael Twitty.

Tuesday, December 15, 1 PM [Part I] – Ira Wallace & Co. present Results and Updates from the 2020 HEIRLOOM COLLARDS TRIAL

  • Ira Wallace will share an overview of the Heirloom Collard Project.
  • Nora from Seed Savers Exchange will share preliminary results from the 2020 Collards Trial.
  • Collards across the USA – a photo show of collard trial participants.

Tuesday, December 15, 1 PM [Part II] – Jon Jackson leads a Collard Trial Farm Tour of Comfort Farms

Jon Jackson, a former US Army Ranger, started Stag Vets, Inc, operating at Comfort Farms where he says, “nothing grows in comfort.” Well aware of the trauma returning veterans face, Jon created a space for healing and connection through an approach he calls “Agro-Cognitive Behavior Therapy”.

Wednesday, December 16, 1 PM – Amirah Mitchell presents Saving Seeds and Growing Community

Amirah Mitchell will teach us how to save seeds, with a focus on brassicas (Collards), and why it’s so important.

Amirah has worked in agriculture for over 12 years and is a practicing seed keeper of over two years, focusing on food crops of the African diaspora. Currently, she is studying horticulture at Temple University and is spending her third season working at Truelove Seeds.

Thursday, December 17, 1 PM – Ashleigh Shanti presents Cooking with Collards

Ashleigh Shanti will lead a cooking demonstration and discourse on cooking with collards. We’ll share her recipe ahead of time so you can be prepared to cook along and enjoy the dish!



To learn more about these awesome events please visit The Collard Week website.


These events are free but you do need to register ahead of time. Please register at The Culinary Breeding Network website.

Saving the Past for the Future