Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mulch and Winter Gardens

HPIM8109Here in the temperate northwest temperatures in the winter hover around freezing and sometimes get in the low twenties. On rare occasions it will even drop into the low teens, however the winters here are quite moderate. The benefit of these types of winters is that you can grow cold weather crops with just a bit of additional work. First you need to plant early enough in the fall that the plant can sprout and get some roots developed. Next is to cover the plants with mulching material to trap in the moisture and heat so that they do not freeze. Around here I found that we have a “weed” called a big leaf maple that will dump a ton of leaves just in time to start covering your plants. So my fall task is to rake up the leaves and place them on the beds until I have about a foot deep of leaf material. Of course you do not want to cover the entire plant but as you can see in the picture most of the plant is covered. In my case this is an artichoke plant and the moment I mulched it, it began to improve 10x in late season growth and vitality that I think the plant thought it was summer again. HPIM8110So once you got a good layer of mulch, in my case it is a foot deep of maple leaves, you just let the plants grow and harvest normally. The mulch gives your winter plants three benefits, first as it decays the bacteria release a bit of heat that keeps the plants warm along with providing a blanket of insulation to trap the warmth of the ground. Second, since the mulch blocks out the light very few weeds actually get the opportunity to sprout and grow, so come summer you can turn the decayed leaves into the weed free soil. Third, it regulates the moisture that enters the fertile soil so that you don’t lose the nutrients in our winter rain storms.

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