Winter Mulches

Martha Stewart Living, Volume 114 May 2004

In cold regions, mulching at the end of the season -- after the plants are dormant and the ground freezes -- prevents heaving by reducing fluctuations in soil temperature. Mulch can also add beauty to the winter garden.

Martha uses evergreen boughs to mulch borders because they add color and texture to the landscape, but just about anything -- including salt hay, straw, peanut shells, cocoa hulls, and bark -- can be spread around perennials, bulbs, trees, and shrubs. Use whatever is available locally, spreading a layer about 2 to 3 inches thick.

Winter Mulch Guide

  • Bark is a good general-purpose mulch for perennials, shrubs, and newly planted trees.

  • Compost and aged manure are excellent for top-dressing perennials and next year's vegetable beds.

  • Pine needles raked up from the ground can be spread around acid-loving trees and shrubs.

  • Salt hay and straw are especially good for protecting cool-season greens, leeks, Brussels sprouts, garlic, and shallots in the vegetable garden. Salt hay contains no seeds, so it will not germinate into weeds, and it allows dormant plants to breathe.

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