Time to chill out on winter mulching.Byline: Paul Rogers Paul Rogers may refer to:
COLUMN: Your gardening answers
The days and nights are turning cool. It must be time to lay down winter mulch mulch, any material, usually organic, that is spread on the ground to protect the soil and the roots of plants from the effects of soil crusting, erosion, or freezing; it is also used to retard the growth of weeds. on the perennials.
Wrong! Never, ever apply a winter mulch this early in the season.
Why the concern? Is it not one of the tasks of mulches to keep the soil warm? Do we not wish the soil to remain warm so that the roots of perennials will keep growing?
The function of a winter mulch is not to keep the soil warm, but to keep it cold once it freezes. Nothing that we can do will prevent the ground from freezing during a New England New England, name applied to the region comprising six states of the NE United States—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The region is thought to have been so named by Capt. winter, nor do we wish to. Many perennials, including trees, need exposure to cold temperatures to ready themselves for flowering next year.
Winter mulch is applied to keep frozen ground frozen. The mulch protects plants from exposure to cycles of freezing and thawing that heave heave
v. heaved, heav·ing, heaves
1. To raise or lift, especially with great effort or force: heaved the box of books onto the table. See Synonyms at lift. plants and break roots.
We need to allow plants to slowly freeze. Doing so allows them to do what is natural - chill down into a steady dormant state for the winter.
If mulch is applied too early, chilling is retarded re·tard·ed
1. Often Offensive Affected with mental retardation.
2. Occurring or developing later than desired or expected; delayed. , and that creates conditions for rodents to exploit. Covering the ground before the soil has frozen a half-inch deep allows field mice to set up housekeeping under the mulch.
Clean up the garden, but delay mulching until several hard frosts have forced rodents into their winter quarters the quarters of troops during the winter; a winter residence or station.
See also: Winter elsewhere.
Winter damage to plants occurs in January, February and perhaps March.
Do not hurry the mulching.