View additional articles in our Garden Library .
Winter mulch serves a much different purpose than spring or summer mulch. During the warmer months we mulch to prevent garden weeds and help retain soil moisture. In fall and winter we mulch for even more reasons. Winter mulch not only protects your garden through harsh weather conditions, it also helps your garden regrow in the spring with more vigor. Winter mulch is especially essential for gardens located in colder climates. Read below for a list of winter mulch benefits, as well as information on various mulch types and winter mulch application tips.
There are many benefits of winter mulching, including:
Mulch decomposes naturally while improving soil structure and garden fertility. Nearly anything you find outside can be used for mulch. Natural mulch is often all around your yard or neighborhood including:
Winter mulch should be applied after the first hard frost, generally when temperatures drop below 25 degrees F. Apply 2-4 inches of mulch around the base of your plants while leaving a 1-2 inch area of breathing room from the base. If you do not allow for breathing room the plant will eventually rot and die.
Fine particle mulch should be piled 2-3 inches high. Adding more than 2-3 inches of fine winter mulch prevents the plant from receiving a healthy dose of oxygen since fine particles block more air spaces in the soil. Thicker particle mulch can be piled up to 4 inches high as larger spaces within the mulch allows for more light and oxygen. However, since thicker particle mulch applications do leave space for air and light, they also allow more room for weeds to pop through, soil moisture to deplete and cold to reach the plants so balance is important.
When spring arrives and the risk of a hard frost has passed, remove the mulch or gently rake it to the side. Provided the base of your plants have plenty of room to absorb heat, moisture and oxygen you can leave the mulch off to the side. Allowing organic mulch to decompose near your plants means soil becomes more nutrient-rich and plants grow with more vigor.