NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

November 6, 2013

Tim's Tips: Mulching can save your plants

If you remember back to this past spring, there were many plants that died over the winter. In some cases, plants were badly damaged.

The winter of 2012 and 2013 killed many plants, but not from too much snow or from too much wind. The problem was the freeze-and-thaw cycle.

Every late fall or early winter, the ground freezes as the temperatures drop. When the ground freezes, any plant in the ground is slightly lifted out of the ground by the freezing of the soil. This lifting of the plant causes some of the root system to be damaged.

In the spring, the ground thaws and the plant settles back into the soil. The moisture in the soil allows the roots to regrow, and the plant is none the worse for the experience.

Last fall and winter, the ground froze and thawed on a regular basis. Each time the ground froze, the roots of the plants were damaged. Come the spring, many plants had little of their root systems left from all the alternating freezing and thawing of the soil. The plants may have been OK except for the fact that it was a dry spring and the plants didn’t have the moisture in the soil to help in the development of a new root system.

The question is: How could you have prevented the damage to your plants?

The answer: Mulch your plants in the fall.

When you put mulch on the soil around the plants, the mulch acts just like insulation. Once the ground freezes, the mulch helps keep the soil frozen if we get a freeze-and-thaw pattern. Mulching your plants is something you should be doing every fall. For many years, you may have gotten away with not doing it, but last winter was the year that many people paid the price in the loss of many plants.

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