The Q&A Archives: Mulching in Zone 4

Question: Here in VT, zone 4, I have a question regarding the proper time to mulch my heather garden as well as a strawberry bed. If I wait for the ground to freeze before applying a winter mulch of spruce boughs, it could already be under a foot of snow! Why can't I mulch when the weather is consistently cold; the bed would freeze later, but it would also stay frozen longer and hopefully my plants would not be heaved out of the ground during warm spells. How about that?

Answer: It's fine to mulch your beds now, in mid-November. The concern with mulching much earlier than this is that a spell of warm, wet weather might cause the crowns of mulched plants to rot. But now that the weather is, for the most part, consistently cold, go ahead and cover with spruce boughs.

Another concern with mulching too early--say, in October--is that by insulating the soil it will stay warmer, and the plant may delay entering dormancy. Again, by now plants should have stopped growing, so it's fine to mulch.

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