Given our short spring and summer season, plus extremely harsh winters, making things grow in Calgary is very, very hard. Many of us put a lot of time, effort, and money into making our properties look good in this tough climate. At Mirage Landscaping, we are big fans of the benefits of mulch as one way of getting your plants, shrubs and trees through our long and cold winters.
Mulch is basically a heavy-duty top dressing specifically for your garden areas. Some mulches break down slowly over time, such as bark mulch and wood chips. These are generally made with cedar, Douglas fir, or pine trees, and can be dyed to match the design of your yard or commercial property. While wood chips or bark mulch breaks down it provides valuable nutrients to the underlying soil. It also works to keep weeds at bay by blocking the sun needed for germination.
Additional benefits of mulch of a natural origin is that over time it can be tilled into the soil and easily topped off as it breaks down.
Inorganic mulches – like rubber mulch – are made from recycled tires and are said to last longer while also providing vibrant colour to your garden and planted areas. They can last up to ten years, but do not break down or decompose. Rubber mulches do work to retain moisture in soil, but will not absorb and slowly release moisture as natural mulch does. Rubber mulch should not be placed directly on top of soil. A fabric barrier must be placed below to stop the mulch from working its way into the soil, which can be toxic for your plants and the environment.
Decorative rocks can also act as insulation. They obviously do not break down, but they still provide moisture retention and prevention against soil erosion and compaction.
More Benefits of Mulch: Temperature Regulation and Moisture Retention
Applying mulch before winter is a wise move. No one knows what the Calgary weather will bring. It could be relatively warm with a few Chinooks, or we could easily be plunged into a long and hard freeze with plenty of snow.
With a generous application of mulch in your beds, and around the roots of your shrubs and trees, you and your plants are covered no matter which way the winter develops.
Mulch provides a warm winter coat for your gardens. It stabilizes temperatures in the soil by becoming a direct layer of insulation for your plants. In the winter, mulch helps to protect roots from frost damage and heaving caused by the freeze/thaw cycles we routinely see in the region. Come early thaws or the fullness of spring, mulch will continue to stabilize the soil temperature when the days are warming and the nights are still chilly.
Mulch that is water absorbent will also keep meltwater from pooling near your plant and then freezing, which is a potentially deadly development.
You Can Use Your Fall Clean Up Debris as Mulch!
There are various cheaper options for winter mulch that perhaps aren’t as attractive as other choices, but it doesn’t matter as they can be removed come spring.
Winter is the season of readily available and easily made mulch in the form of grass clippings and leaves, both which share the desirable trait of being fully biodegradable.
If you are going to use leaves, it is best that they be shredded for three reasons: 1) intact leaves are more likely to be blown out of the beds by winds, creating hazards if they decompose upon hard surfaces such as sidewalks or concrete steps, 2) shredding the leaves will give them more surface area to break down more efficiently over time for more easy cleanup in the spring, and 3) shredding leaves will also help remove pests that can overwinter easily in piles of debris.
Another mulch that is ideal for spreading into beds before winter is compost. We are huge fans of compost, and fall is a great time to have Mirage Landscaping amend your beds, or the area around the base of trees and shrubs, with your black gold. Not only will the compost offer a nice hit of nutrients to the plantings it is applied to, and will serve as that winter temperature-regulating layer your plants need to get to next spring unscathed.
Fall Clean Up and Mulch Applications from Mirage
Mirage Landscaping can provide a thorough fall clean-up or leaf removal for your property, and also performs snow removal services for the winter. We are a full-service residential and commercial landscaping design, construction, and maintenance firm serving the southeast Calgary area, including:
- Auburn Bay, Chaparral, Chaparral Valley, Copperfield, Cranston, Douglasdale, Heritage Pointe, Lake Bonavista, Mahogany, McKenzie Lake, Mackenzie Towne, Maple Ridge, New Brighton, Odgen/Lynwood/Millican, Parkland, Riverbend, Sundance, Walden, and Willow Park.