We’re still reeling from the sudden change in temperature. Our long hot summer came to an abrupt end a few weeks ago and now we’ve stopped scratching our heads over what we usually wear in the colder months and hauled the offending articles out from the back of the wardrobe, we’re looking into doing the same for our garden beds.
Yes, plants need protection from the cold too. Their feeding roots are generally close to the soil’s surface and during winter they are affected by the constant change in soil temperatures throughout the day. The best solution to the problem is to tuck a decent layer of mulch around your plants. Whether you have your own supply of compost, grass clippings or leaves or you buy your mulch in, your soil and, of course the plants, will love you for it.
It will also help keep weeds at bay but rather than chucking a couple of bags of mulch in the general direction, it is important to give the garden a head start by weeding it first. You can further guarantee your precious plants health by applying blood and bone and sheep pellets before topping with mulch to help replenish nutrients.
Top with a layer of compost, pea or lucerne straw. The nitrogen contained in these varieties of mulch helps feed the soil. The rains deluging our gardens at the moment will help break down the mulch eventually leaving your garden prepared for spring.
Bark mulch looks fine, making it a good alternative for the ornamental garden and around shrubs and trees, but straw is ideal for roses.
And now there are garden-friendly alternatives to the dreaded conventional weed matting, such as jute weed mats. They allow the soil to breathe, keep microbial activity safe and sound and reduce the quantity of bark mulch required.
Hot Tip: When laying mulch it is important you lay down sufficient to smother weed growth and retain soil moisture. You’ll need a 7cm layer; less than 6cm will allow sufficient light for weed seeds to germinate.
Take care, however, not to smothering the mulch right up to tree trunks, shrubs and the crowns annuals, perennials, and vegetables. Leave a gap of about 1.5cm so the mulch’s moisture-retaining properties won’t cause the plant to rot.