Year after year we experience harsh winters with heavy snow, slick ice and freezing temperatures, yet our bodies never quite adapt to these unfavorable weather conditions. Sure, our Midwestern roots help us handle winters better than those who grew up experiencing milder weather, but each time the temperature drops we still pull out those heavy coats, big boots, gloves, hats and scarves for protection. Your perennials, too, need to be prepared for the chill of winter in order to survive the season. While some perennials are hardy enough to thrive with little protection, most of your plants require extra layers of warmth like you.
Extremely cold weather is not the only reason to give your plants a little extra love this season. Perennials also need to be protected from the freeze-thaw cycle, which can damage roots, as well as heave and injure plants. What’s the solution? One simple way to add warmth and keep the back-and-forth temperatures from harming your plants is to apply a thick layer of mulch on the ground.
Like your puffy winter coat, mulch provides a layer of insulation to protect the soil, roots and plants. You can use several different types of organic mulch, but the easiest and most accessible option is chopped-up leaves. Rather than raking, bagging and getting rid of your leaves, shred them using your lawn mower and apply a layer of mulch four to six inches deep.
When it comes to adding mulch, timing is everything. Wait until late fall, after the first frost, to pile leaves on the ground; applying it too early will slow down the freezing process.
A thick layer of insulation goes a long way to protect against colder weather. As we get into the late fall season, watch out for the first frost and then prepare your plants for winter.