Its only when the ground is frozen solid or snow is on the ground that I can’t really do anything in the garden and yard — except maybe peek at the lettuce under the cold frame. This past February was such a month, so I lost almost an entire month of enjoying my yard and garden.
Fortunately most Virginia winters are such that I can accomplish a lot outside and get a jump on things before green growth takes over. For me anywhere from 40 to 60 degrees is perfect for working outside.
In January this year I cut the ornamental grasses (I usually wait until March), and cut back some leather leafs and variegated shrubs that we use as a hedge along the side of the property that had grown about 10 to 15 feet tall. The mocking birds and thrashers loved them and were becoming quite prolific. Both are aggressive birds andI can only accommodate a few of each. I think trimming and thinning these hedges is just what the doctor ordered to keep these birds to more controllable numbers.
It was great getting those things done, but I am most excited about getting my garden and borders mulched. That will pay off big time in the season ahead.
I can think of 10 reasons to mulch.
1. Weed control. You’ll still get a few weeds that you can pull when you go by, but NOTHING compared to what you get when there is no mulch. Bare ground without mulch will work you silly trying to control weeds.
2. Protection from the elements. Rain will compact bare soil. Sun then bakes it. The result is not the best environment for plants.
3. Prevents erosion. You sure don’t want all that good soil running off somewhere else with the rain.
4. Improves the soil. As mulch breaks down it improves the soil texture by adding organic matter. (This is how
easy it is to improve soil!)
5. Helps maintain moisture in dry weather. The only time I ever water is when I first plant and sometimes I don’t do it then.
6. Can keep warmth in the soil over winter. Mulched beds won’t freeze as readily as unmulched beds. I find this particularly helpful when I want to work outside in the winter. If the bed is frozen you can’t do much.
7. Keeps the soil cooler in summer heat. Most plants like it a lot better.
8. Looks nicer.
9. Eliminates most yard waste. Most debris from your flower borders does not have to be removed. When cutting you can leave it for use as mulch which as we have discussed feeds the soil. I leave 99% of everything in my flower borders where it falls when sprucing up.(I do remove rose bush trimmings.) My ornamental grasses make wonderful mulch. Even when trimming the hedges I leave all the small stuff to decay. (I put straw on top of that to help it make a better appearance.) If I had a chipper I would use the big stuff as well.
In the vegetable garden I leave my finished peas in the path when I pull them up, and sometimes if the tomatoes have had a particularly beautiful year I will pull them and place in various paths to decay. I do the same with lettuce, spinach, and radish tops. Most all other finished vegetable plants I take out of the garden so as not to give a foot hold to the respective pest of each or possible fungal diseases.
10. Saves time. The other nine reasons all add up to the 10th reason which I think is the biggest and best reason of all to use mulch. It saves you tons of time on garden chores you will never have to do!
That bears repeating: It saves you tons of time on garden chores you will never have to do!
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