Winter mulching can help shield your Utah gardens from the harsh effects of the upcoming cold season.
In areas that get freezing temperatures in the winter — like Salt Lake County and much of northern Utah – perennial plants, shrubs and trees become dormant to conserve energy and survive the cold weather. Much like a heavy coat keeps you warm and cozy, mulch insulates plant roots and keeps the soil temperature in your Utah gardens constant.
Without winter mulching, a sudden warm snap can pull plants out of dormancy, triggering new growth destined to die with the next freeze. In addition, soil expansion and contraction can heave plants out of the ground and create root damage.
When to Apply Winter Mulch
The right time for winter mulching depends upon the weather. Generally speaking, Utah garden pros recommend applying mulch soon after the first hard frost hits.
A hard frost occurs when the temperature dips below 25 degrees, causing both the air and ground to freeze. In northern Utah, the first frost date generally falls toward the middle of October. But, this can vary, so keep watch on the local weather forecast.
Materials for Winter Mulching
Organic mulch, made from shredded natural bark, is an ideal choice to protect Utah gardens from winter winds and freezing temperatures. The texture can provide the perfect amount of insulation to prevent plants from coming out of dormancy.
Other materials, including straw and pine needles, can also work for winter mulching. But, since you’ll need to remove the mulch in the spring, a material that’s easy to work with – like organic mulch – makes good sense.
How Much Winter Mulch to Apply
The average seasonal temperatures in your part of northern Utah dictate the amount of winter mulch to use. As you might expect, areas that get extremely cold require heavier mulching than areas with more moderate weather.
In general, however, Utah gardens need a layer of mulch that’s at least three to four inches deep. Apply less, and the plant roots won’t get the protection they need to make it through the winter unscathed.
Removing Winter Mulch
As we mentioned, you need to remove winter mulch once spring arrives. When you notice your Utah garden plants putting out new growth, the mulch has to go – leave it in place, and your plants may suffer damage.
When removing winter mulch, rake away enough to expose the crowns of your plants, but don’t cart it away just yet. Keep the material nearby, just in case the weather takes a sudden turn. If a surprise frost is on the way, recover the garden beds for the evening. Remember, though, to remove the mulch again in the morning.
Do you have questions about protecting your Utah gardens during the cold season? The Dirt Bag, located in West Jordan, can give you expert advice on the ins and outs of organic mulch. For more information on winter mulching, or to place an order, contact us today.