It is that time of the year when we need to start thinking about how to take care of those plants outside before we are sent into the deep freeze for a few months. Mulching is very important to protect plants from winter kill and it can be done in several different ways.
The first thing to know is that it takes a while before our ground is cold enough to freeze. While we had snow this week, it also acts as a blanket against any cold temperatures which help to keep the ground from freezing quickly. Snow has a lot of good qualities for our plants which is good because, after a while, we are often hard-pressed to think any good thoughts about snow as the winter chugs along.
Snow is one of the best insulators that we have to give many of our plants a fighting chance against some of the colder months in Minnesota. This being said, it is not so much the cold temperatures of winter that play such a hard game against our plants as much as the freezing and thawing do in the springtime.
It is almost better to leave plants under the blanket of snow until freezing and thawing has passed which is the month of March to the first half of April. Unless you have spring-flowering plants coming up such as tulips or crocus, it is better to even shovel snow on top of the more fragile plants to keep them happy until springtime is fully awake.
A good 6-inch mulch over the top of fragile plants such as those that were recently planted, roses, or other perennials that do not need to be dug each year, will keep them through the winter. I generally plan on making sure that these types of plants are mulched by Halloween. Leaves are okay to use but can sometimes mat down and can cause some problems in that manner. Straw or grass hay also work well to protect against the ever-changing winter weather.
Weather takes many twists and turns in our gardens and is quite responsible for many crazy things that happen with our plants. This fall, there have been many residents talking about how certain plants have produced flower buds when generally speaking, they only bud and flower during the springtime. This is called remontant.
The warmer weather this summer of which it was followed up by a cold September, sent many of our plants into a tizzy which means they thought they had gone through winter. This being said, some spring blooming plants had flowers on them. You may have not seen many blooms. A branch here or there but they were blooming in all of their glory. This happens because once a plant that blooms in the spring is done blooming, the plant is busy setting blooms for the next spring already. They are just waiting for their cue to open up the blossoms. With climate change occurring and our summers warming, followed by somewhat unpredictable fall months, we may see more of this phenomena happening.
The important thing to remember is that any plants that are busy thinking it is spring now, may not bloom as much next spring. We may see more green leaves on plants and fewer flowers from those plants. For more information, go to https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-news/reblooming-plants
For more information on gardening, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org