Ask the ExpertsWhy You Should Apply Winter MulchJanuary 25, 2022Are you ready to get busy on your lawn now that 2022 has begun? With the initial signs of fresh growth giving us a hint of inspiration despite the cold and the short days, we have the perfect way to give your garden a boost!January is an ideal time for applying winter mulch. Generally, applying mulch to borders and beds will give a wide array of benefits including improving soil quality, protecting your plants from fluctuating temperatures, keeping the weeds down, and helping the soil retain its moisture.It’s best to remember that mulching is not recommended year-round. The reasons we mulch and the kinds of mulch to use should vary with the seasons.During the growing season, mulching has a host of benefits that include keeping the soil cool, conserving moisture, and weed suppression.One of the major reasons you’d want to do it now is to protect your plants from the alternating of freezing and thawing temperatures, causing shallow-rooted bulbs and plants to heave from the ground. The main aim of applying winter mulch is to protect your plants from extreme temperatures.Once you notice that your plant is putting out new growth, it’s best to remove the mulch. Leaving mulch on an actively growing plant may encourage a number of crown rots or may smother the plant.The makings of a great winter mulchIdeal winter mulches are coarse in texture, providing a blanket of insulation while still allowing adequate water and air to flow through. Loose materials like hay, straw, evergreen or pine boughs and other organic, fibrous mulches do a good job in insulating and protecting the soil without compacting beneath the weight of ice or snow.For bulbs and perennials, compost and shredded leaves will provide adequate winter cover, as these kinds of plants can easily push through the material come spring. For ornamental shrubs and beds, pine needles are ideal. Straw is a lightweight, inexpensive winter cover and insulator for vegetable beds. Bark chips are best for shrubs and trees.Mulches composed of compost and shredded leaves will serve as food for microbes, earthworms, and other beneficial creatures in the soil. In addition, organic woody materials like pine needles, straw, bark chips, and nut hulls will give food for microorganisms that help enhance soil structure.If you found this guide to applying winter mulch helpful, hop on to our blog, The Benchmark, for more useful gardening tips and other resources.