Mulching Perennials for Winter Protections
Our winter months can exhibit wild swings in temperature, which can go from the sub-zero range to the 50’s or higher, all seemingly within hours, if not days. We can have many false springs in January and February, and while we might enjoy these winter breaks, our plants can suffer. One way to reduce winter stress on your perennials is to mulch them. The purpose of this mulch is to keep the soil temperature cold, so the time to apply is after we have had several hard freezes where the temperature drops below 25ºF. Typically, winter protective mulch should go down in December. Two to 3 inches of mulch will keep the soil from continually freezing and thawing, because this repeated movement of the soil as it expands and contracts will heave the plant upward, thus exposing the crown and roots to the vagaries of winter. Additionally the mulch will help conserve soil moisture and encourage the presence of beneficial soil organisms. Among those perennial plants that benefit from a winter mulch are those that are marginally hardy in this area and those that are shallow-rooted. Hybrid tea roses, mums and azaleas are a few examples of plants that benefit from a winter protective mulch. For more information on winter mulches, contact you County Extension Office.