Mulching a garden for winter | Living the Country Life

Mulching a garden for winter

Living the Country Life Radio Program with Betsy Freese

A blanket for perennials

Listen to this radio show (MP3 download) or read below.

Radio interview source: Tony Fulmer, retail manager, Chalet Nursery

In the winter, you can have sub-zero temperatures one day and balmy 50s the next. My perennials aren't crazy about these wild weather swings. When the soil freezes and thaws, it expands and contracts. Most perennials have shallow roots, and this soil fluctuation heaves the roots to the surface, exposing them to drying, cold air.

Putting down winter mulch reduces plant stress because it insulates the ground. Nursery retail manager Tony Fulmer says a blanket of snow is nature's great insulator, but many areas of the country don't get that much, if any. So the best material to put down is something coarse in texture.

"Shredded hardwood bark would be fine," Fulmer says. "If you have a very, very coarse composted leaf mulch that would be great; bark nuggets would be fine; your own compost from the compost pile; pine needles are excellent -- any of those things that have a very, very coarse texture that allow the moisture to move on through."

Don't throw tree leaves around your plants, because it's like laying a sponge on them. The leaves absorb the moisture, keep the roots overly wet, and you'll end up with rotted roots come spring. Other bad choices are newspaper and plastic, which can smother the plant.

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