Winter Mulching: What Is It and Why You Should Do It - Backyard Boss
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Winter Mulching: What Is It and Why You Should Do It

Winter is fast approaching, and your garden is nearing the end of its run for the year! Although they’re dormant once the temperatures drop, they’re still alive and need to be cared for. To do this, you need to start winter mulching! Winter mulching is crucial in helping your garden survive the winter and grow properly when spring comes again. To learn more about this, keep reading!

What You Need To Know About Winter Mulching

Most people know how spring mulching promotes plant health in the growing season but are unfamiliar with winter mulching despite being as important for your garden. Just like how we need a warm jacket to brave the winter, your garden needs a blanket to protect them from frost damage. Many cold-tolerant plants are not winter-hardy and need extra help while they rest in their dormant period. Mulching is crucial for perennial plants and vegetable gardens.

Although woody plants can tolerate different weather conditions, your garden will benefit from a 2- to 4-inch layer of shredded mulch to prevent plant damage. Although some people give their gardens a layer of fresh mulch during late spring, winter mulching starts in fall. This process of creating a layer of mulch over a soil bed acts as cold season maintenance. Without this blanket of winter mulch, your garden beds can be seriously injured by the snow or even die from the frost.

Winter Mulching Benefits

snow in the white house
Image Credit: The White House via Creative Commons

Get to know why you should mulch your garden for the winter with these amazing benefits!

Soil Protection

Winter brings with it bouts of snowfall that cover the ground and thaw sporadically during warm periods. While it makes for a pretty picture, it’s dangerous for your garden’s health and can cause plant death. Repeated freezing and thawing of soil interferes with its natural moisture and nutrient content. Winter mulch is your soil’s protective layer and works to insulate your soil temperature and keep it consistent despite the temperature changes in the air.

Shield For Dormant Plants

Winter mulching will also protect your dormant plants from the frost and make them more winter-hardy. Plants benefit from winter mulching since it shields their roots from frost damage and prevents frost heaving, which can dangerously expose plant stems, plant roots, and crowns to freezing temperatures. Since mulch insulates soil temperature, your roots will be safe in the winter.

Improves Soil Health

Organic winter mulch will slowly decompose throughout the season. It means while it preserves your soil’s temperature and moisture, it also nourishes and fertilizes your soil in preparation for spring. By the time the growing season starts, organic winter mulch will have fertilized the soil already, thereby encouraging healthy plant growth.

Types Of Winter Mulch

If you need some winter mulching ideas, you’ve come to the right place! There are several organic and inorganic materials to choose from to serve as soil cover for the winter with different strengths and considerations. Some common mulches include:

Organic Winter Mulch

wood chips for recycling by mulching the garden and back yard, fence, prayer flags
Image Credit: Wonderlane via Creative Commons

Organic mulch is most often a budget-friendly way to blanket your garden for winter. You can get organic materials for your mulch from your garden, scavenge it from other’s garden scraps, or purchase it locally. There are many different types of organic mulch, and we recommend any of these for the winter:

Pine Straw

pine straw mulch
Image Credit: Joe Hoover via Creative Commons

Straw mulch, especially pine straw mulching, reliably insulates your soil and holds in its moisture. It’s a loose mulching material that traps air within the blanket and compacts over time which can be removed or turned into the soil. It also feeds your soil for spring and acts as a weed barrier to keep those annoying weeds away from your garden.

Bark Chips and Wood Shreds

Bark Chips and Wood Shreds
Image Credit: Rob Evel via Unsplash

Wood and bark, such as shredded bark, cedar bark chips, pine bark, or tree bark, make for incredible mulching materials since they’re long-lasting, chunky, and look neat in your garden. These are easy to find but run the risk of absorbing nitrogen from your soil unless you lay your mulch atop a compost layer first. Woody perennials will benefit from a 3-inch-thick mulch layer of shredded bark mulch.

Shredded Disease-Free Leaves and Grass

grass and leaves as mulch
Image Credit: karenblakeman via Creative Commons

Disease-free leaves and grass are winter mulching that works wonderfully and can be completely free! You can get these from your garden and shred them using a lawnmower. Shredded leaves and grass are nutritious, decompose slowly, and work well with veggie gardens. To learn more, watch this: Using Leaves as a Great Winter Mulch in Your Garden.

Evergreen Boughs

Blueberry mounds first layer-- acidic mulch-mound making
Image Credit: fishermansdaughter via Creative Commons

Evergreen boughs, such as hay or pine boughs, are amazing winter-insulating mulch. They can consistently keep your soil frozen while preserving its health. You can find this easily once people start throwing out their Christmas trees, and it’ll also be easy to clear out in spring. These allow air circulation without thawing your soil and prevent pests from burrowing in your garden.

Inorganic Mulch

flower bed
Image Credit: roger_mommaerts via Creative Commons

Inorganic mulch material is usually made of plastic, rubber, and rocks. These promote moisture retention, increase soil temperature, and can last years. It’s less common in winter since they’re known to absorb heat and could encourage the thawing and freezing process of your soil. That said, if you live in an area without frost, this could warm your cold-tolerant garden. Additionally, plastic mulch can have various effects on the soil, depending on its color.

In Summary

Winter mulching is one of the best things to do for your garden once the cold creeps in. It will require some more work in your off-season garden maintenance but is completely worth it.

A blanket of mulch can keep your garden healthy and neat even during its dormant period and make your job so much easier when the growing season starts again. For any questions and suggestions, just comment them down below!

Our biggest tip for winter mulching? Be generous!