The Q&A Archives: Winter Mulching

Question: Is it best to apply a protective winter mulch a few inches thick as soon as the site is cleaned up for the year, or to wait until the ground has frozen to apply it?

Answer: It is a good idea to maintain a layer of several inches of mulch year round. The mulch should be applied around rather than over the plants. In the late fall, once frost has hit several times and the rodents have found their winter nests elsewhere, you can add a bit more mulch if you like. This is more important in areas where there is little or no snow than it is in areas with a reliable snow cover because snow is a great insulator. Some gardeners will also lay a light fluffy layer of say evergreen boughs or possibly straw over top the entire bed as an extra precaution, but this is not necessary until the temperatures are at their lowest, say in January. Any mulch atop the plants must be removed promptly in spring to avoid smothering the plants, too. If your plants are rated hardy for your zone, the cold should not be a problem but the mulch will help moderate temperature swings and also reduce the chance of freeze-thaw damage during the late fall and early spring.

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