Mulch is composed of a variety of organic residues, including leaves, grass clippings, shredded newspaper, animal manure and other ingredients. Mulch certainly doesn’t look like much, but it has near-magical properties as it conserves moisture, thwarts erosion and protects your plants, especially on hot days. As winter approaches, winter mulch can also protect your perennials against the coldest temperatures, ensuring that they remain alive come spring. Here we’ll take a look at how to mulch, which type you should use and when the best time is to get the job done.
If you mulch your garden to protect it for hot weather, there’s a good chance you’ll need to replenish it as cold weather approaches. Winter mulch protects your plants from the freeze and thaw cycle, and what causes soil to push plants out of the ground explains the University of Vermont Extension Department of Plant and Soil Science.
Although a variety of ingredients can be used as mulch, straw is the best organic residue, as it is hollow and offers superior insulation. You can also use leaves, but they must be thinly shredded to prevent compacting the soil. A mulcher or a lawn mower with shredding capabilities can be a big help with the grating process.
When to Mulch
The best time for mulching before winter will vary depending on where you live. Your state’s extension service offers guidelines on when this should ideally be accomplished, and can inform you precisely how to mulch for your area.
In climates where the ground freezes and snowfall is common, timing your mulching means getting it done once the ground begins to freeze but before the first snowfall arrives. If you begin too early, you risk creating a layer of mulch for rodents to take up residence, possibly leading to an infestation problem.
How to Mulch
Unless you have a ready supply on hand, you will likely need to purchase mulch from your home or garden center. Buy enough to cover your gardens, but only to a depth of two or three inches to avoid attracting rodents. As for your rose bushes specifically, you should skip the mulch. Instead, place a pile of dirt around each bush up to a level of one foot deep.
When spreading winter mulch by hand, be sure you are wearing work gloves to keep yourself protected. For the winter, removing and discarding old mulch may be best to start. Then, sprinkle the fresh mulch throughout the garden and between the shrubs. Be sure to pull mulch off of stems to help the plants breathe.
Your garden isn’t the only area in your yard that gains value from your mulching efforts. Newly planted trees can benefit by wrapping the trunks with tree wrapping tape. As for how to mulch around these types of plans, you can add four to six inches of material by the base of the tree.
For your delicate evergreens, a windbreak may be the best tool to help protect them from winter. By strategically placing posts north and west of your green line and wrapping them with burlap, you can shield the greenery from biting winds.
Once winter settles in, you can continue to set aside coffee grounds, vegetable scraps and fruit peelings for a compost pile. A mixture of green and brown materials can be useful for your garden come spring and will help to supplement your existing mulch.
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Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.