Thinking about gardening during Minnesota’s cold, snowy winters might seem like a silly concept, but spring, the time when our gardens begin their growth, is fast approaching. Whether we have six more weeks of winter of six more weeks till spring, winter’s time is slowly melting away.

Even before the winter melt, however, homeowners can use mulch to improve their spring and summer gardens. Mulching has many benefits for your garden, but different gardens favor different kinds of mulch in the winter.

Winter Mulching

Typically, mulching is done after the first frost. However, even that doesn’t always allow Minnesotans to get at snow-free frozen gardens. Waiting until winter to mulch also ensures that the mulch doesn’t become a home to mice and other critters searching for a warm winter home.

A little shoveling is preferable to waiting for the snow to melt to mulch, since mulching can help protect plants from the effects of multiple thaws and freezes. Mulch does this by shielding the ground from the sun, preventing the ground from thawing until there has been prolonged warmth and spring has sprung as last. Different kinds of mulch offer various degrees of protection from harmful freeze-thaw cycles.

Winter Mulching Tips

An important winter mulching tip to remember is that the mulch is more for the soil than the plants. Because of this, gaps should be left around the base of plants and shrubs. Leaving a small gap in tree mulch can also help ensure you are not over-mulching.

The use of mulch is also determined by the owners use case. Easy to manage mulches such as pine needles, leaves, and straw are great for annual gardens where the mulch will need to be moved to plant the garden, whereas wood chips are wonderful for perennial gardens that won’t need planting.

Garden Protection

Different plants also prefer different mulches. Pine needles and evergreen branches are great for shrubs and plants that thrive in high acid levels.

Bark chips are a common garden mulch for perennials due to their slow decomposition. This slow decomposition means they need to be applied less often. Modern winters, though, seem to persist almost into summer, teeter-tottering back and forth between the seasons, which is why mulching is so beneficial to gardens.

For more articles on winter lawn care, visit the Land Concepts blog.