Winter mulching, once an optional task for only the most sensitive plantings, is now becoming a necessity. Our New England winters are less predictable because of climate change, it’s time to revisit this fall chore that can make the difference in plant and shrub survival.
In the last five years, in Eastern Massachusetts has not had snowpack which lasted through January through March. This year, NOAA is predicting our third year of the La Nina effect, which will bring us warmer than normal temperatures. This is extremely problematic for plants and especially new plantings. This freeze-thaw action forces smaller plants up and dislodges them from the soil surface.
Now exposed, the plant’s roots dry out and are subject to rotting. Warming temperatures are also causing many plants to come out of dormancy too early only to have their new growth killed by plummeting temperatures. To assist your perennials or newly planted small shrubs, this winter, shade the soil around the to protect against the sun heating up the soil. Snow cover it the best winter insulator. Once we get some snow, lightly push snow into the beds where you can but be sure it’s free of salt and other road deicing treatments. A more reliable solution is to add other forms of natural insulation.
We recommend adding 2-4 inches of chopped leaves, pine needles, salt marsh hay or sterile straw over the crown of perennials and around the root zone after you have cut back the perennials and after temperatures are staying consistently in the 50-40F range.
We also recommend protecting street facing shrubs and garden beds from salt and deicing sprays. If you would like assistance in preparing your plants and garden beds for their long winter’s nap, please give us a call.