Nature actually teaches us what we need to know about winter mulch. The thick layer of leaf mulch that forms on the forest floor just prior to the onset of the cold winter months protects, feeds, keeps moisture in and weeds out for plants and trees growing in a natural habitat. That’s exactly what an application of winter mulch will do for plants and trees growing in your garden and landscape.
A layer of winter mulch applied will help your flowers produce bigger and better blooms, prevent flower bulbs from heavy by keeping the soil temperature constant and the winter mulch will prevent soil moisture evaporation so plant and tree roots won’t dry out during the winter.
As the mulch decomposes over the winter, the nutrients leech in the soil and go directly to the plant and tree roots. Those nutrients enable the plants and trees to grow strong, deep roots, making them less susceptible to drought conditions. The readily available soil nutrients also make the plants and trees ready, willing and able to start growing vigorously at the first sign of warmth from the spring sun.
How to apply winter mulch can also be discovered in nature. When plants and trees drop their leaves in the fall, the leaves do not naturally fall at the trunk of the plant or tree, but rather away from the plant with the thickest concentration of leaves being near the drip line.
When applying winter mulch, don’t pile the mulch up to the trunk of the plant or tree. This will keep the plant’s trunk moist and make the plant or tree susceptible to mildew, rot and pest infestation. Applying winter mulch (or spring mulch) against the trunk or stem of the plant will also cause the roots to grow upwards towards the top of the soil, which is called ‘crowing’ or ‘crown rooting’. These shallow plant roots will dry out very easily and the plant will not be able to survive drought conditions. Apply winter mulch 1-2 inches away from the plant stems and tree trunks, extending out to the drip line when possible.
Any organic material can be used as a winter mulch around plants and trees; pine straw, hay, leaves, peat moss, bark chips, etc., and should be applied to the depth of 2-4 inches to keep the soil insulated and soil temperature constant throughout the winter. Non-organic material like roofing material or plastic can also be used as a winter mulch, but non-organic material won’t decompose and adds no nutrients to the soil.
Why apply winter mulch? To keep your plants and trees protected and healthy throughout the winter.
How do I apply winter mulch? 1-2 inches away from the plant’s stem or trunk, extending the 2-4 layer of mulch out to the drip line.