13November 28, 2012

Applying a layer of mulch around the base of your perennials, rose bushes and shrubs is an important fall chore. It is best done in late November or early December. Let me explain why this is such an important fall chore.

When the ground freezes in the late fall or early winter, the freezing of the ground actually lifts the plants ever so slightly up from the ground. As the plant is being lifted, a small percentage of the roots are broken. If the ground stays frozen, this is no big deal. Come the spring, as the ground thaws, the plants drop back into their original position in the ground. The damage roots have time to grow in the cool moist soil of early spring. This is the plan, but it does not always work out the way we would like it to happen. When the ground freezes in the winter, it can also thaw back out again in a milder winter. This allows the plant to drop back into the soil. However, if the ground keeps freezing and thawing, your plants will wind up with a lot of damage to the roots. Come the spring, the roots may not have time to be repaired before the weather warms. In extreme cases, the roots may be so badly damaged that the plant ultimately dies. If you remember back to last winters mild weather and athe alternate freezing and thawing of the soil, you now know why so many plants died this spring.

If you could keep the soil frozen once it freezes, then you would have minimal damage to the plants roots. By applying a layer of additional mulch around the base of the plants, the mulch will insulate the soil and allow the soil to ultimately freeze and then to stay frozen. Even if the temperatures fluctuate back and forth, the soil remains frozen. This protects the plants and your plants have a better chance of surviving the winter.

You can use bark mulch to mulch around the base of the plant. The mulch should be spread out in a layer that is 3 inches deep. The mulch doesn’t have to be spread over the entire perennial bed. It just needs to be where the roots of the plants are in the soil. The same applies to your trees and shrubs. The mulch needs to be 3 inches deep, extending out from the base of the plant, covering the soil where the root system is concentrated in the soil.

The type of mulch you use doesn’t really matter. It can be bark mulch or it can be straw that is free of weed seed. For several years, we have sold a product called Mainely Mulch. It is a chopped straw that has been heat treated to kill any weed seed. It can be spread over your gardens as mulch. Unlike other hay or straw products, it doesn’t have to be removed in the spring. You can spread it out in the gardens and its smaller size allows it to decompose into the soil.

Mulching your plants now can prevent major damage to your plants during the winter. It doesn’t take long to do and helps you to protect your investment in the plants you have in your yard and gardens.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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