Mulching in the rain will make it more difficult as the mulch will be heavier, it will stick to your garden shovels and rake and you will get wet. Bark mulch in particular will get heavy in the rain while lighter mulches like hay will be less affected. Soil and lawn can be compacted if it is run over it with a wheelbarrow when it is raining.
Alternatively cover the mulch pile with a tarp until it stops raining.
What really happens when you mulch in the rain
Mulch gets heavy
Bark or tree mulch that is delivered in a large pile will absorb the rain water and get heavier. The pieces can stick together making it difficult to shovel and move the mulch where you need it to be. Mulching after rain is a great idea as it will allow the mulch to dry out, get lighter and make it easier to move.
Waiting until large amounts of rain has passed before getting mulch delivered is another great method. Timing the delivery of your mulch can be tricky so it if you have it all booked in, cover it with a tarp while it rains to keep it dry.
You will get covered in mulch
When mulching in the rain you can be sure that you will get covered in mulch. Wear long sleeves, pants and gloves to keep any mulch from sticking to your skin. Bark mulch will contain dirt pieces as well as pieces of bark which get sticky when it is wet.
Protect yourself with a rain jacket and boots and you can still spread mulch in the rain. Sometimes you only have a weekend to get a mulching job done so dress for the weather and you can still mulch in the rain successfully.
Your implements will get covered in dirt
To spread mulch in the rain you will often be using a mulch shovel, rake and a wheelbarrow. All of these garden tools will get covered with mulch and dirt if you mulch in the rain. The important step is to wash off your garden tools with clean water to remove dirt and mulch particles. This will help to prevent rust and keep your garden tools in good condition.
Compaction of the soil and grass
Running a wheelbarrow or walking over grassed areas when it is raining can lead to compaction. When moving mulch in the rain it is likely that you will need to walk over areas of your garden or move over them with a wheelbarrow full of mulch. The wheelbarrow will be heavy and can weigh down the soil and grass. This will decrease air pockets and can lead to compaction.
If you need to mulch in the rain, try laying flat wooden planks over the grassed area to avoid your wheelbarrow from compacting or digging holes into your lawn. Try to keep your wheelbarrow on paved areas and avoid stepping into garden beds if you can in the rain.
Alternatives to mulching in the rain
There are some other ways to deal with mulch instead of mulching in the rain.
Cover with a tarp
Covering your bark mulch pile with a tarp is a great way to keep mulch off your mulch pile. This will stop it from absorbing the water and getting too heavy. If mulch piles are kept wet, they will start to rot quickly and can grow mold.
Instead of mulching int eh rain, cover the mulch with a tarp while the rain falls and remove it the next day once the weather has cleared up. You will then have dry mulch that will be easy to move and perfect for adding to the top of your garden beds after the rain has passed.
For more essential tips to protect your mulch using a tarp, check out my previous article here.
Move bagged mulch into the garage
Bagged mulch can still absorb water as most bags will contain holes. The water can get inside the bag when it rains and it may form mold The easiest way to avoid this problem is to move your bags into the garage until the rain passes. The dry bags of mulch will be much lighter to move and will be easier to lay out once the rain has passed.
How long should mulch be down before rain?
There is no minimum amount of time that mulch should be down before rain. Once you have finished laying the mulch, rain or water from your hose will help to settle the mulch in and hold it in place. You will be able to see areas that require more mulch so you can ensure that the thickness is 2-3 inches on top of the soil.
What is the best time to put down mulch?
The best time to put down mulch is after it has rained. This will allow the rain to penetrate through the soil to your plant roots. Once it has finished raining, you can lay dry mulch on top of the soil to prevent weeds and slow water evaporation.
Should you wet the ground before laying mulch?
You do not need to wet the ground before laying mulch. Watering the mulch in after laying is a great idea however as it will help to hold the mulch in place and stop it from blowing away in strong winds. Adding water to the top will help the mulch pieces to knit together and avoid it washing away in heavy rain.
Will rain wash away mulch?
Mulch can wash away if it is placed on a slope or at the end of a downspout. Heavy mulches like bark mulch or landscaping rock are best for slopes as they are more likely to hold in place during heavy rain. For areas under downspouts, try large pebbles, stones or grates to divert water away from the mulch and your home.
For more on mulching under downspouts, check out my previous article here.
Can you mulch in the rain? | Summary
Mulching in the rain can be done but prepare yourself to be covered in mulch and dirt. Make sure you wash off your garden tools after mulching to avoid rust. Keep yourself dry by dressing in wet weather gear and make sure you put on a great pair of garden boots to keep your feet dry. Mulch after rain has passed to keep yourself cleaner and cover your mulch with a tarp while it rains.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.