With how changeable the temperature and weather is becoming with climate change, it has never been more important to ensure that plants remain in dormancy during the winter months. To accomplish this the soil needs to be kept within a certain temperature range to prevent thawing. If thawing occurs and temperatures warm to a certain point, even if only for a spell, plants can be stimulated into producing new growth. This can prove very damaging if temperatures drop again, as it can kill the new shoots which will result in the plant having wasted its precious energy stores. This can lead to plant sickness or death. But fear not! There is an easy way we can protect the soil surface and prevent this from happening by using mulch.
For those who are unaware, a mulch is a layer which is applied to the surface of the soil or compost that a plant is growing in, usually to accomplish various results. Whether that be protecting the soil, enriching the soil or suppressing weeds. Today I will be touching on the protective function of mulch.
There are various types of mulches you can apply whether they be synthetic or organic. Here at Wildlife & Eco Gardens we use organic mulches as we endeavour to incorporate nature into our practices and avoid environmentally unsound materials. Some organic mulches include shredded leaves, bark chippings, pine needles and well-rotted animal manure.
When applying mulch around plants ensure the layer is at least 2 – 4 inches thick as this will keep the soil well insulated. It is also important not to let the mulch touch the base of any woody plants, as this can allow too much moisture to gather on the plant which will provide ideal conditions for fungal infections and diseases to develop. Only apply a winter mulch after the first hard frost. A great indication of this is when herbaceous perennials have died back.