What is WInter Mulch?11/9/2012

What is Winter Mulch?

Winter mulch is mulch that is applied to the base of plants after the first hard frost.

Do you need to mulch in the winter?

Some people take mulching for granted, thinking that it is simply a top dressing to make your landscaped beds look beautiful.  Many also think that the only time to mulch is in the spring for the purpose of suppressing weeds, retaining moisture and to feed and warm the soil.  As true as that statement is, there is a compelling reason to apply a new, albeit lighter layer of mulch to your beds just prior to winter.  The primary reason for winter gardening is to protect your plants from the freeze and thaws of the winter.

Follow with me….The main idea behind winter mulching is to keep the ground frozen by shielding it from the heat of the sun!  As we all know, winter often comes with some truly beautiful days, those days tend to warm the soil around our plants, which can trigger a growth spurt.  When this happens, the new growth is tender and will quickly die when the weather changes back to cold.  Mulching now will help to keep the ground frozen adding a layer of protection to the plant.

 What kind of mulch can you use? 

You can use any loose material that will act as an insulator.  Keep in mind that you will need to remove the mulch in the spring, or at the least rake it aside.  Choose a mulch that is easy to handle such as shredded mulch, pine needles, or shredded leaves. 

 When should you apply winter mulch? 

You want to mulch after a hard frost (defined as when temperatures drop below 25 degrees f).  An easy way to know when to winter mulch is when you see the last of your hardy annuals die after a cold night.  This is the point that perennials become dormant and mulching around them will not encourage tender new growth.  A good winter mulch will be a layer between 2 and 4 inches deep around the base of the plant.

 When should I remove winter mulch? 

You will want to remove your winter mulch when the danger of hard frost has past.  Of course this is sometimes difficult to gage.  A safe time is when the ground starts to thaw.  At that time, it is safe to start raking and removing the mulch so that the ground can warm and new growth will be allowed to push through the surface.