Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers Association

Mulching

December 23, 2006

 

by Debbie Hinchey

 

I am scheduled to talk about mulching at the upcoming Rose Soc. Feb 21 meeting and thought it would be neat to ask an even broader group of gardeners about it.

I am hoping that it could later be put into a talk to other groups if I get enough feed back to see all the variations and similarities when it comes to the “controversial subject of mulching” (as Julie Riley puts it.)  I am trying to figure out why some of us have such different experiences.

There are a lot of different garden practices that are all called mulching.  Most of them can be divided into summer and winter mulching.  When someone asks if you mulch, often that person is not talking about the exact same practice that you are.

The idea of breaking down what one calls mulching into winter and summer mulching is an idea that Lenore Hedla had in one of her popular gardening books.  I think it helps to uses these terms when talking about mulching.  After that distinction is made, it can still get a little confusing but not as much.

I am a fan of summer mulching with organic material but detest the use of “landscape cloth” or plastic placed under the roots of plants that I want to thrive.

I will winter mulch with Christmas tree boughs and sometimes in areas that do not get any snow cover, but not in areas that can be smothered by snow on top of wet leaves.  If an area may have its snow blown off or be subjected to temperature swings, I may mulch the south sides with leaves in or out of bags to shade them.

There are people that swear that if you do not winter mulch with leaves thickly over all perennials they will not make it through the winter.  We continue to have success if we do it our way and not if we do it their way.  Are we misinterpreting what the other is doing?  Are our conditions so different that the results can be opposite of theirs?  All of this is possible.

I hope you will mail or e-mail your techniques and conclusions about mulching various types of plants.  I wonder if there are points that we can all agree on.  I am also curious if there are little differences in our growing conditions that will give us some fairly reliable predictions to the success of different mulching materials, timing, or other variables.

I would truly love to hear ALL of your experiences, thoughts, and deep meditations about mulching.  If enough of you tell me your mulching ideas, it will turn into a presentation for Rose Society this February 21.  If your thoughts do not coalesce before that, send your ideas anyway, we all want to keep learning.

Thanks for your help in advance, Debbie Hinchey   (dhinchey@alaska.com )