Mulching in Winter?
After an active season, your garden needs a little rest and care to survive Calgary’s harsh winter and come livelier in spring. While you can do many things to protect your garden in winter, mulching must top your to-do list. It not only protects your soil but also comes with many other benefits.
But just what is mulching? Mulching means you are simply spreading a thick layer of natural material in your garden. You can use different organic materials as garden mulch, such as bark, wood chips, and shredded leaves. Mulching protects the plants, roots, and soil against recurrent freezes and defrosts that can otherwise spoil the soil and roots.
Benefits of Garden Mulch
The main reason why winter garden mulch is necessary is that it keeps the ground frozen by preventing thaws resulting from temperature fluctuations. Plants need a stable temperature to remain dormant in winter. A brief rise in temperature is likely to trigger new growth in winter, which can lead to more winter dieback.
Second, the mulch helps preserve the existing water level in the ground. This means mulching keeps your garden beds moist until the hard frost. Also, it builds a protective wall between the air and soil that safeguards the roots against sudden spells of warmth that may otherwise expose plant crowns and roots to weather-induced damages. On top of that, winter mulch helps prevent ground corrosion and compaction resulting from rain.
The win can blow harshly during the winter in Calgary. It can damage herbs, plants, and woody perennials. Garden mulch helps protect the delicate young plants from winds and ensures they are in good health to grow with full strength in spring. Also, it prevents soil nutrients from escaping. In fact, when the organic material decomposes in spring, it can make the soil all the more fertile.
Winter mulch can even help extend the harvest season of certain crops that can sustain winter soils if insulated. It also protects your garden from weeds by blocking the sun that may otherwise trigger germination.
Types of Mulch to Use in Your Garden
What kind of garden mulch to use in your garden depends mainly on accessibility, where you live, the visual appeal you want for your garden, and ease of use. Even though there isn’t an ideal mulch type for every garden and situation, you should choose a winter mulch that:
- Lets air and water into the ground
- Prevents compaction
- Remains where you spread it
Keep reading to learn about the best landscape supply options for mulching your garden in winter.
Bark mulch is one of the commonly used landscape supplies in Calgary and a perfect organic material to be used as winter mulch. You can choose to use chipped or shredded bark, both of which are ideal to be spread around plants, perennials, and shrubs. Cedar mulch is a popular bark mulching option in Calgary. It is highly resilient, enduring, aesthetically appealing, and decays gradually. If you are looking for winter mulch that is resistant to wind, consider bark nuggets instead of shredded bark because wind can easily blow the latter.
If you want to mulch garden paths and perennial beds, it’s a good idea to use wood chips. Just be sure the chips are not coated with inorganic substances, and you’re good to go. You can choose wood chips coloured with organic pigments in case you want to give your garden a colourful accent. In any case, be sure the chips are not treated with harsh chemicals because chemically treated mulch does not decay and can cause damage to your garden.
Shredded leaves are also useful winter garden mulch. These are easy to handle and can enhance the soil quality by quickly decomposing. Moreover, shredded leaves are organic and act as useful winter covering for your plant beds and vegetable garden. You can also spread shredded leaves around shrubs and trees. However, make sure the mulch does not come in direct contact with the trunks and stems of your plants.
Other Mulch Options
Nutshells like walnut and filbert shells are best for adding an accent to your garden. They decompose gradually and are beneficial for the soil.
Straw is a good, light, and cheap insulator. It is readily available. However, do not use this option if you are looking for something ornamental.
Hay is also a good choice for winter mulching because it has similar features as straw; however, it contains more weed seeds.
What Time is Best for Winter Mulching?
It is best to wait until the soil starts to freeze, and the plants go into dormancy. It is typically ideal to begin your winter mulching in Calgary with the right landscape supplies after the first hard frost or when the temperature plummets below zero. We are quite lucky to get chinooks throughout the winter here; this is an opportune time to get outside and ensure your garden is protected.
Second, you need to begin by cleaning out the weeds from your garden and spreading landscape fabric, such as woven landscape fabric, around the base of the plants. By doing so, you are reducing the likelihood of weed growth. Be sure, however, to avoid polyethylene landscape fabric because it is not environmentally sustainable. Moreover, it will keep water from entering the soil.
Replacing Winter Mulch
While winter mulch is great for your plants and garden soil, it is not meant to stay there year-round. When the winter winds up, and you see that your plants are starting to grow, it’s a sign you should remove the mulch. If the insulation covers an actively growing plant, it can discourage growth and trigger problems, such as rot crown disease. For this reason, it is vital to remove the old excess mulch and apply a thin layer of fresh mulch to help retain moisture in the spring months.