Too soon?

ich_bin_nathanNovember 17, 2007

Is it still to soon to cover everything with leaves? I am getting anxious to go out and do something...but I wasnt sure if I should hold off.

Any thoughts?

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I think it depends upon what you are covering up. The theory behind mulching hardy plants for winter is to protect them from the freeze thaw cycle, and in that case you want to wait till that frost is in the ground. I believe it is different with tender perennials (which I don't really grow and someone else can speak to). I have, however, tea roses that are not zone hardy, those I have protected already.

I no longer cover my hardy perennials...I simply let them stand and let what blows in protect them. I have not lost but a few things this way, and I am not certain I loose any more than did when I covered them.


    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 4:38PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

I agree with Helen. I let Mother Nature take care of mulching my perennials. I recently read about a gardener who mulches 1st season trees and shrubs with 8-10 inches of marsh hay or straw before the ground freezes, as well as some borderline hardy perennials. He claims that he's had minimal losses since starting to do this. Opinions please.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 7:33PM
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I don't mulch or cover my perennials. I don't have anything borderline hardy and what I do have comes through just fine - haven't lost anything since that winter three or so years ago when it was bitterly cold with no snow cover. I do appreciate a good insulating snow cover!

I can understand protecting first season trees and shrubs - a little insurance to safeguard one's investment. Was this gardener in Massachusetts or somewhere else in New England? That's a big area for the salt marsh hay. But wouldn't think even there, a heavy mulch would be done before the ground freezes. But, different things work for different gardeners.

Was out this afternoon and as cold as it gets at night now, the ground's still soft. An even bigger surprise was my compost pile is still hot after a couple of weeks.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 1:14AM
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jel48(Z4 Michigan)

I don't know about the early mulching thing... it seems to me that it wouldn't hurt anything. My theory being, that mulching before frost wouldn't contribute to more of a freeze/thaw cycle. It would only take the ground longer to freeze solid in the first place, just like it takes it longer to thaw in the spring. I put a very light mulch over my newly planted hostas 3-4 weeks ago, and the same with mayapples and bloodroot that I planted today. It's not much, maybe a bare inch of shredded leaves, and then I pushed the original forest type mulch (mix of pine needles, small pine cones, etc) back up on top of the leaves. I'm betting it won't hurt a thing. If I get a chance to get back with an inch or two more after it freezes, that would be great, but who knows.. it might not happen.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 6:27PM
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hostaholic2 z 4, MN

The article was by a gardener in WI.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 11:05PM
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julie_mn(z4 MN Henn)

My neighbors routinely put their plastic bags of leaves in their garden beds as they bag them...
I on the other hand- am still out there trying to get caught up- cleaning- collecting and curs.. um, carting the corpses to the neither regions of the back yard.
I find it much more important to fence off shrubs and other really good eatin stuff from the bunnies and deer (2 this morning- IN the fenced in yard!!) and mice! I am behind schedule in doing that and better hurry up as they are out there right now tasting the goods left after the frosts! After I get that done- I will fill the fenced up Japanese tree peonies with leaves- and maybe sprinkle a few more on some more bare beds- but that is about it- I let nature take it's course for the most part in the winter-

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 7:53PM
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What I have read indicates that if you mulch, it is best to mulch when the soil is frozen to the depth of 2-3 inches, or alternatively, when the strawberry plants are flat. My strawberry plants are not yet flat, but between the calendar and this weeks forecast, I did mulch the strawberries yesterday with straw. Today, I plan to mulch perennial flowers that are on my retaining wall with chopped leaves. These flowers will get the frost from both the top and the side--they also have some exposure to the northwest. I prefer to wait until the ground is near frozen to discourage little ground rodents from moving in
to nest in the mulch.

Besides the type of plant, I think you have to consider wind and sun exposure as well as soil type. Clay soil is more likely to heave plants such as coral bells or perhaps even break off plants with tap roots.

If for some crazy reason, we have another winter without much snow, I won't worry as much. Most of my plants are relatively new and I lost quite a few last winter with the lack of snow until March.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 8:33AM
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ladylotus(Z3/4 ND)

I do mulch with bags of leaves some of my more tender plants. I don't remove the leaves from the bags, I just place the bags on various plants in a teppee fashion. I do it to allow the plants to survive, but most importantly I use this technique to have some of my plants grow much large as some of the stems don't die all the way back to the ground since they are so insulated. Examples are some of my hydrangeas (Quick Fire, Pee Gee, Pinky Winky etc.) and my most treasured hibiscus (Old Yella, Fireball, Lord & Lady Baltimore and many more) and some of my shrub roses get much larger if I protect some of them too. This year I did not have enough bags to mulch the roses. Oh well, too many other things going on. I can't seem to catch up.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 8:38PM
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glen3a(Winnipeg MB 3A)

I don't recall where I read it, but I read about a gardener who was experimenting with a shrub that was marginally hardy for his area and swore that the plant survived winter much better when he mulched before the ground froze, rather than after. Of course, there is always the risk that the mulch, if done really too early, might attract mice.

I think I timed mine just right as I mulched two weeks ago and despite one windy and warm day, it's finally cold enough that the ground is freezing (todays high 27F).

No snow though. Which makes me in the minority. Some people say it can be cold weather, just no snow. I think to myself that's exactly what I don't want, from a gardeners point of view.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2007 at 10:42PM
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