Ask a Question forum: Winterizing shrubs

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Eastern Massachusetts (Zone 5b)
Sep 29, 2017 10:26 AM CST
I have been working recently to "winterize" shrubs very differently than I have in the past. What I did before was seriously wrong. But that doesn't mean what I'm trying now is OK. Do you think it is OK? Do you have better suggestions?

The big problem is that mulch (various kinds) doesn't stand up to nearby use of the leaf blower and I need a leaf blower A LOT. In the past I always under estimated the duration of leaf blower season. So I removed the mulch in September, planning to put it back when I'm done with the leaf blower, which never really happens. Then you need the leaf blower for more cleanup in the spring and I finally re-mulch late in the spring.

Most of my shrubs were mulched with thin sticks (an interesting look and I think an effective mulch). A few were mulched with pine needles. I've switched this year, so about half are mulched with pine needles, including all but one in the Rhododendron family (because I think pine needles are a better mulch for Rhododendrons. Either thin sticks or pine needles blow away when a leaf blower is used nearby.

This year (slowly one shrub at a time) I have been first boosting the mulch up from the typical half inch that survived the summer to 3 inches, then covering (almost paving over) the mulch with heavy chunks broken from fallen tree branches. I think that will protect enough of the mulch from the leaf blower and I think it is OK to leave all winter so it will protect the mulch from the leaf blower in the spring, then I can pull the chunks of branches off for the summer.

Most of these shrubs (not all) stay green (or greenish) all winter. So I assume they need more air and water reaching the roots all winter than deciduous shrubs need. This covering over the mulch won't really reduce water reaching the roots, but will reduce air (a perfect mulch lets air and water through while blocking sunlight from either promoting weeds or drying the surface).

Comments and/or suggestions?

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