With the excitement of Christmas dying down, the avid gardener gazes out the window at the wintry scene, yearning for spring to arrive so he can get his hands in the dirt. Don't despair! There is a gardening chore that can be done at this time of year.
With the excitement of Christmas dying down, the avid gardener gazes out the window at the wintry scene, yearning for spring to arrive so he can get his hands in the dirt. Don’t despair! There is a gardening chore that can be done at this time of year.
January is the perfect month to mulch your gardens, for several reasons.
By January, the hard freeze has hit and animals have found winter homes, so you needn’t worry about the little critters burrowing into your mulch and feasting on your bulbs and plant roots.
Laying mulch in January ensures protection of the roots and crowns of perennials from freeze-thaw cycles which can heave roots from the ground. Exposed roots dry out or freeze, killing the plants. Organic mulches will break down over winter, adding organic matter that will feed the soil and improve soil structure, as well as help to moderate soil temperatures for helpful soil organisms. Mulches prevent soil erosion from high winds or hard rain and minimize leaching of nutrients out of the soil. Lay a two to six inch layer of organic mulch such as straw, shredded leaves, bark chips, nuggets or chunks over the soil.
Evergreen boughs make excellent winter mulch. With Christmas trees having done their part adorning the indoors, there are many to be found in January. In most of Ontario, we put them out by the curb for city pickup. If the city has no objections, round up as many as you can, saw off the branches and apply over soil in three to four layers. You can also ask your neighbors to save their trees for you after Christmas, if they have no intentions of using them themselves. Another option is to visit Christmas tree vendors; in January, many give away leftover trees or sell their boughs, already cut up, for a nominal fee. For extra protection, evergreen boughs can be placed over lighter mulches that you may have laid in the fall.
While you’re wandering around the gardens applying mulch, you can do a quick check on any coverings you may have placed over your plants in the fall to ensure they make it through the winter. Check for any tears or sagging that may have occurred from the frequent fall winds and rain.
And the best reason of all to mulch in January is that you get in some gardening time outdoors in the winter. There is nothing more gratifying to a gardener in the impending winter months. So get out there and mulch! Then come indoors, grab a herb tea, and gaze out the window at your handiwork with the satisfaction of knowing your garden is safe for the winter.
If you live in the parts of Canada that are frozen solid and covered with deep snow in January, you can happily sip your herb tea and pore over garden and seed catalogues and magazines as you design your yard for the coming year.