The leaves have finished falling and the temperatures continue to drop. As the icy wind begins coming in, we begin dressing in all of the possible layers. With every layer of scarves, jackets, gloves, and hats, we become more prepared to brace for the coming winter.
Just like we prepare our bodies to embrace the cold weather, we also need to consider preparing our gardens for the cold weather.
Think of mulching like your garden’s winter parka! In northern states, a layer of snow acts like a great insulator, but in Texas, we cannot count on a blanket of snow, so we mulch.
Importance of Mulching
Mulching gardens is the easiest way to protect plants.
Plants with shallow roots or young and tender perennials are most at risk to the freezing weather and mulching is the standard and critical tool to protect the plants against frigid conditions.
As an added bonus, mulching is an easy way to add beauty and increase curb appeal to your home and the overall appearance of your landscape.
Winter Vs Summer Mulching
Winter mulch serves a different purpose than summer mulching. Winter mulching is more about protecting roots from changing temperatures than the freeze itself.
The goal is in the summer is to retain soil moisture, prevent erosion, and control weeds. These qualities are certainly added bonuses to mulching in winter, it mainly acts as insulation for the soil and plant roots.
The mulch protects our plants from the harsh conditions of winter freezes, thaws, and winds.
But the snow itself is great at this. The secret benefit to winter mulching is not to keep the ground from freezing but to keep it from alternately freezing and thawing. This can injure plant roots and push plants and bulbs right up out of the soil.
The exceptions are roses and strawberries. Keep them dormant! Not keep them warm.
Not all plants need to be mulched for the winter. While mulching can be the reason a tender plant survives the winter, it simply is not necessary for some garden plants.
And then for plants that do require mulching, it is important to employ the proper technique.
Do not “volcano” mulch, or pile the mulch around the plant, creating a mound shape. When this occurs it can cause rotting around the trunk and leave the plant susceptible to diseases that can eventually kill the plant.
A good rule of thumb for winter mulches is to apply a two or three-inch layer evenly across the needed area. Adding more not only wastes money but also may smother the root system.
Timing and Process
It’s important to know when to mulch. The best time to apply winter mulch is just after the first hard frost. By putting mulch down at this time, you will help stabilize the temperature of the soil right around freezing.
The steady temperature in the soil will help to keep from growth spurts during a warm spell. Because Texas landscaping is accustomed to higher temperatures, a “hard frost” in Texas, can be any sustained drop in temperature.
Of course, this wouldn’t include the colder night temperatures, when it warms back up to 70 degrees during the day. Think more of the first cold front to move through the state. When temperatures drop consistently for a period of time.
So Much Work
Although maintaining mulch in flowerbeds and gardens is an important step in maintaining your home’s landscaping, there is still so much more work.
As mentioned, mulching in the winter does help suppress weeds in but winter still brings some nasty winter weeds, like Poa Annua. It is also important to do preemergent and post-emergent weed control throughout the year.
Gecko Green is a professional lawn care and pest control company that has been family-owned and operated locally here in North Texas. We have skilled technicians and excellent customer service and would love to come alongside you and work to keep your lawn the best on the street. Call us today for a free quote!