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Winter 2004
John Cushnie On...

Duvet Covering
1 January 2008

On wintry, wet, frosty mornings I can feel the cold seeping in through my clothes so on goes another layer.

Plants feel the cold too. More plants die from winter chill than waterlogging.

philadelphus (mock orange)There are many trees, shrubs and perennials with roots that stay close to the soil surface. When a big old pine or beech tree blows over they leave a ridiculously shallow hole in the ground. Most of their roots are close to the surface. It is the same with raspberries, philadelphus (mock orange), syringa (lilac) and betula (birch) trees.

All young plants and those recently transplanted will benefit from a surface mulch to retain heat in the soil and offer protection from frost. Even a thin layer will prevent cold from entering into the soil.

The lighter and more open your ground then the deeper the frost can penetrate. If we do get a series of hard frosts this winter then the top 2-3 inches could become frozen solid.

mulchProbably the best mulch is a deep layer of old, well rotted farmyard manure. It will not only keep out the cold but will add humus and some nutrients to the ground.

Home made compost does a good job but it takes a lot for a large area. Bark mulch and wood chip are excellent and when laid on a sheet of landscape fabric will succeed in preventing weed seeds and roots in the ground causing trouble.

There is a big selection of various sizes and colours of gravel and they make attractive mulches. A 2-3 inch deep layer will keep the roots cosy and frost-free.

GravelBroken slate acts in the same way but remember that when it is frosted the surface becomes very slippy.

Where there are only a few plants to worry about then layers of newspaper or circles of carpet laid around each plant will offer protection.

Don’t apply the mulch when the soil is already frosted as it will have the opposite effect keeping the soil cold.

Plants in pots, especially those in metal containers, will benefit from an outer wrapping of bubble wrap or sacking tied around the container to prevent the frost penetrating to the roots.

Related Links
John on good Mulching
Mulching Plants
Making Compost


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