I go through an report that says perennial gardens should be mulched for the wintertime. Considering the fact that I have not been accomplishing that in the previous, I would like to know if I must start doing so as section of my routine mattress upkeep.

— Bobby Jackson, Glenview

I try to lower the total of time that I shell out sustaining my own backyard garden, so I do not implement mulch to any proven perennial borders at household and nevertheless get reliable superior outcomes. Most of the beds have stuffed in so I do not need to have to spend a lot time weeding in the summer time either — a layer of mulch on bare areas of beds will help keep weeds down for the duration of the rising season.

A single of the factors offered for mulching perennial beds for the winter season is to insulate the soil to assist defend the crops. I prefer to go away perennials up for the wintertime (and cut them back in spring) to enhance winter season interest, letting some leaves to blow into the beds for a natural mulch. If you have a whole lot of trees, you could need to have to remove some leaves from your beds so that your crops do not get smothered. A 2- to 3-inch layer of leaves that are not matted need to be Alright, but a 12-inch layer of matted leaves that has been compacted into a 2- to 3-inch layer of large, moist leaves will most likely induce some complications. You may possibly want to lower again specific perennials, such as hostas, that start out to flatten and get mushy right after remaining frozen a couple periods.

Some gardeners like a cleaner appear all through winter, with perennials slash back and all leaves eradicated. But an proven perennial border will most probably be Ok without the need of a layer of mulch applied in late fall. Nonetheless, a mild layer of about an inch of shredded bark or leaf mulch can be helpful and appear wonderful. Do not utilize far too considerably — extreme mulching 12 months after calendar year can result in a buildup of organic and natural make a difference in the bed that is detrimental to plant well being. A calendar year with reputable snow deal with means a superior layer of “mulch” for your backyard. The snow will enable insulate the ground from winter temperature swings.

Have new plants? It is quite important to mulch any new perennial planting for the winter. The mulch will support retain the ground hotter a bit afterwards for the vegetation to establish in drop and reduce frost heaving in wintertime and spring. When the ground continuously freezes and thaws, it expands and contracts, which can thrust modest, recently planted perennials that have not rooted in effectively out of the floor. This will expose the roots and crowns of the plants, and boost the possibilities of them dying through winter or the spring thaw. After the floor freezes, a layer of mulch will help retain it frozen right until the weather conditions is far more reliably earlier mentioned freezing in spring.

Tim Johnson is director of horticulture for the Chicago Botanic Back garden in Glencoe.

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