Mulching the Garden for Cold Weather

Michael Nolan
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Spring and summer aren’t the only times that your garden can benefit from a good layer of mulch. In fact, mulching for cool weather can be equally as important for two – oddly opposite – reasons.

Stretching the Garden

In the typical growing season, we use mulch to suppress weeds and retain moisture. When cooler weather begins to appear, applying a thick layer of insulation can help you to keep those plants growing long after most have given up. 

In this case, mulch acts to keep the plant roots warmer, longer. It won’t work throughout the entire season, but you wouldn’t want it to, otherwise you would miss the second reason for mulching your garden for the cold.

Winter Mulching

Though it is often looked upon as a sad time for gardeners, winter is a crucial season for the garden. When you see your favorite plants wilt and die away, remind yourself that it is only during the winter that perennial plants and trees achieve dormancy. Dormancy is critical to the growth process for many plants (like fruit-bearing trees), and surprise warm temperatures mid-winter can inadvertently wake those sleeping plants and trigger new growth just in time for it to be killed off by the next freeze.

Winter mulching protects the frozen ground from the thawing effects of the warm winter sun and keeps the soil temperature more constant, which is a good thing for dormant root systems.

Materials

You can use a variety of materials for winter mulch, depending on personal preference and what is most readily available in your area. Some of the most commonly used mulches include:

In addition, you can even choose to add a touch of color to your winter garden beds with colored mulch in brown, red, or black.

To help you estimate how much mulch you need, visit our Mulch and Top Soil Calculator.

Image Credit: Dervin Witmer/SS

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