Late fall and winter is not too soon to do something with the leaves or pine needles you have collected with a Cyclone Rake. Used properly, leaves and pine needles may provide attractive and economical winter mulch around many plants. Follow these tips to put your leaves and pine needles to use before next spring.
Use Oak Leaves and Pine Needles to Mulch Acid-Loving Plants
Oak leaves are slightly acidic before decomposing. That means they need some time to decompose to be used as garden compost, as they’ll soon rot and lose their acidity. But you can use this fall’s oak leaves to mulch and help protect your acid-loving plants - like azaleas and rhododendrons – this winter.
A University of Missouri growing guide recommends placing oak leaf mulch 4 to 6 inches deep around azaleas and rhododendrons. This helps conserve moisture and minimize winter injury to shallow roots. The mulch can be kept around the plant in warmer months, but be careful that leaves do not mat and form a layer that prevents water from reaching the soil below.
Pine needles provide slightly acidic mulch without as much risk of matting, creating excellent mulch around acidic-loving plants. Clemson University Cooperative Extension recommends a two-inch layer of pine needles. Whole pine needles interlock with each other, creating a mat while still allowing water and nutrients to reach the soil surface. Pine needles can also be scattered on top of other mulches to help keep them in place.
Consider Coarsely Shredded Leaves for Winter Mulch
Some plants can benefit from winter mulching, a layer of mulch leaves laid in late fall to insulate flowers or shrubs in winter. Winter mulching can also prevent “heaving,” when the ground rises and falls from thawing and freezing, which can damage plant root systems. Most garden guides recommend winter mulching after plants are dormant and temperatures are below freezing.
Winter mulch is meant to be removed when temperatures warm in early spring. It is important to use leaves that are not as finely shredded – like the leaves collected with the Cyclone Rake Power Vacuum Pickup – to keep the mulch from becoming matted. Having protected your plants for the winter, the winter mulch can be removed to the compost pile to break down.
If you Grow Strawberries, Use Pine Needles as Winter Mulch
Winter mulching protects strawberry plants during the harsh winter months. Straw is often used, but pine needles are ideal – especially for a smaller home garden strawberry patch. According to the University of Massachusetts Extension Center for Agriculture, the pine needles can be spread out between the rows of strawberry plants as temperatures warm. This helps keep strawberries clean when they ripen, reduce fruit rot, and cool the soil.
Labels: Fall and winter yard care, fall cleanup, mulch, protect plants in winter, removing pine needles, winter mulch