Mitch Baker, retired Horticultural Specialist at the American Plant Garden Center and Nursery, in Bethesda, MD, focusing on natural gardening products and organic gardening. Mitch is a MD Certified Professional Horticulturist, with more than 36 years of experience in the garden center industry. He has studied at numerous horticultural institutions from New York to Oregon, and is a past board member of the Rachel Carson Council.
Winterizing Garden - Mulching
Professional horticulturalist Mitch Baker demonstrates how to winterize an ornamental garden including mulching basics.
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Mitch Baker: I am Mitch Baker with American Plant in Bethesda. We are talking about winterizing your garden, right now mulching is the topic. When do you mulch, what you are going to use to mulch and how much to apply? Those are the questions that are frequently asked. Now we are still dealing with these leaves that are coming down. So it doesnt really make sense to mulch at this time. No, best to wait until all of these leaves have fallen; you have done your clean up, then go ahead and apply your mulch. At that time the soil temperatures have had an opportunity to drop; applying mulch too early, just keeps soil temperatures elevated, to long into the fall. So, we want those soil temperatures to drop at a normal rate based on air temperatures. So waiting until all the leaves have dropped, then apply your mulch. Now what we are going to use today is shredded hardwood. But it really doesnt matter whether you use shredded hardwood, pine bark chips, pine bark nuggets, pine needles, coco shell, cedar mulch, cypress mulch, thats a personal choice, whatever you like to look at. The problems come from the over application of any those mulches. So what we want to do is keep the mulch limited to an inch, an inch and a half tops, that's all thats necessary to get all the benefits of mulch without causing any problems. The benefits of mulch, it retains moisture in the soil, it moderates temperature and it helps to suppress weed growth. More mulch does not necessarily increase those benefits; in fact we start to create some problems. Creating that thick layer of mulch, I am sure you have seen around trees, this cone of mulch that's the cone of death. That's way too much mulch, we want to feather that out to just an inch. That much mulch powdered on the base of the tree, that just creates a barrier to moisture penetration, not a good thing. And we will spread this out, lightly, that's the idea is to have this thinly spread, not more than an inch deep. So that this mulch then decomposes within a one year period, so that's it's replaced annually. Not twice a year and not three times a year, we want to keep this mulch thin. So that it breaks down, it does its job within a season, within a year so that we have to replace it then. So keep the mulch thin, you will get all the benefit without creating any of the problems. That's a bit about mulching and next we will talk about watering for the winter.