Mulching and Winter Protection: Essential Steps to Guard your Garden
Originally Posted At Simpson Landscape
As the days the get shorter and the temperatures outside drop, our North Texas gardens are getting ready for their winter sleep. With frost and the occasional snowfall just around the corner, now is the time to protect your garden perennials – marigolds, mums and marjoram – with mulch.
Adding a layer of mulch will shield the roots from the intermittent periods of extreme cold we sometimes get in North Texas. It helps prevent erosion and exposure during violent storms and is one of the best ways to prepare your garden for winter.
Mulch helps the soil hold moisture so you don’t have to water as often. It also suppresses weeds, which can get out of control, even during winter months. And over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil’s structure and fertility.
What kind of mulch should I use?
Simpson Landscape generally recommends using organic materials as mulch. When making your selection, consider how well it protects and what it will add to the soil. There are many types of materials for mulch – these are the most common in North Texas:
- Come from chipped or shredded branches or small trees, usually a mixture of woods from a variety of trees
- Available at a reasonable cost, sometimes even free from municipalities or utilities
- Becomes alkaline as it breaks down, benefiting all but those plants that need a lot of acid
- Durable ground cover that “knits together” and resists floating away in heavy rains
- One of the most common and least expensive types of mulch
- Comes from a variety of sources, including cedar and pine trees.
- One of the best mulch types to use on slopes because it is denser and breaks down relatively slowly
- Some shredded-bark products are by-products from other industries and are considered environmentally friendly.
- Fallen leaves are commonly used as cheap, homegrown mulch in winter
- Should be shredded before use to prevent them from matting down
- Less durable than hardwood or bark mulches
- More expensive materials, such as crushed stone, gravel or volcanic rock
- A low-maintenance alternative to organic mulches
- Won’t decompose or float away and won’t need replacement for several years
- Good for rock gardens, on walkways and driveways, or in areas that will receive little or no attention throughout the year
How much mulch?
To calculate how much to buy, start by measuring the square footage in each of your garden beds. It’s not necessary to be precise; estimating to the nearest foot will work just fine. For the circular area around a tree, for instance, measure the distance from the trunk to the edge of where you want the mulch, and multiply that by 10 to give you an estimate. Add all this up and you have how many square feet you need to cover.
Simpson Landscape recommends applying mulch in North Texas in a layer about 3 inches deep. Bulk mulch is sold by the cubic yard, which covers 108 square feet at 3 inches deep. Bagged mulch usually contains 2 or 3 cubic feet of material, which at 3 inches deep would cover 8 to 12 square feet. Putting this all together, if you have 300 square feet of garden to cover, you need about 3 cubic yards of bulk mulch, or 25-37 bags of mulch, depending on the bag size.
How to apply mulch?
- Remove unwanted weeds or grass.
- Spread mulch material around plants and shrubs in a 3-inch layer. A thinner layer will break down too quickly and not be deep enough to provide the winter weather protection your plants need.
- With a shovel or gloved hands, scoot the mulch under shrub branches to protect the roots near the central trunk. Do not pile mulch against tree trunks in a volcano shape. Having moisture-retaining mulch against the outer bark can foster bark rot, which can seriously damage or kill the tree.
A properly mulched garden will easily withstand winter’s harsh weather and will be ready when spring comes. If you want to protect your garden and prepare your landscaping for the winter months ahead, contact the professionals at Simpson Landscape for more information today.