Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Time to mulch
Wow, record warmth in November turned Polar vortex in December. And just like that, it’s winter! Once your soil is frozen down a couple of inches, it’s time to add mulch.
It’s important to let the ground freeze first, then place your mulch. We are looking to stabilize the soil temperature for our plants so that when we get wild fluctuations in temperatures our plants won’t heave out of the ground. In other words, it’s not necessarily arctic temperatures but rather the extremes that can force a plant out of the soil, especially newly (2 year old) planted plants.
- Shredded leaves make great mulch that decomposes too! You MIGHT consider adding some nitrogen next Spring but get a soil test first.
- Straw is a great insulator but you may find some weeds in the spring. (Straw is a collection of the stems of field crops such as wheat and oats. It is popular as a mulch because it rarely contains weed seeds and is readily available. It makes a particularly good winter mulch because the hollow stems hold air and act as insulation for the plants below.)
- Marsh hay (Salt hay, or salt marsh hay, consists of grasses harvested from salt marshes. Their wiry stems do not mat down or rot as quickly as straw, and any seeds that are present will not germinate because they require wet, saline soil. Where it is available, salt hay is the best choice for mulching.) is a good mulch with generally no weed seeds. It’s also a little harder to find.
- Shredded bark, not chips, makes a good mulch too.
- Pine needles, lucky you, they’re wonderful insulators and you can use
- Grass clippings too, as long as you’ve skipped the lawn chemicals.
Remember to mulch like a DONUT not a volcano! Snow is a different thing. Pile that stuff right up and on trees. Wood mulch becomes a home for certain little critters, that’s why we suggest the donut as the little critters could basically lay in “bed” and eat the bark of your trees/stems at the same time! ?
MOST of the time, when spring comes, we will remove this mulch to allow for water, oxygen and nutrients to get to our plants roots. You can mulch to a depth of 6 inches if you’d like, especially if you have zone 5 plants, but then remove all of that in Spring. Yes, I know I said it twice!
Some fun plant facts to ponder – a pineapple is actually a berry, a peanut is from the bean family, a banana is an herb and, although onions may make you cry, they also contain a mild antibiotic that fights infections, soothes burns, tames bee stings and relieves the itch of athletes foot.