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18/10/2013 at 08:40

Good morning everyone. Ready for another silly question from a total novice?
I've read that you should offer some protection to overwintering perennials, once they've been cut back (so for example, my acanthus, monarda, agapanthus & delphiniums) in the form of mulch. I've looked through many books; what I can't seem to establish is if you are meant to smother/cover the crowns with the chosen mulch, or spread it around the crowns. One book says the mulch should have no contact with the plant's leaves yet in others I've seen it say that you should loosely cover the crowns. Which is right - and when do I do it?? Many thanks for any help you can give me!

18/10/2013 at 08:53

i cover all the plant for winter, you can mulch your garden any time of year, when bob flowerdew was asked when the the best time to mulch was he said every sunday morning  seriously your perenials will disapear underground in the winter mulched or not so if you have the material use it now and in spring when the plants are growing mulch round 

i dare say somebody will have differant advice

18/10/2013 at 08:56

sorry cant edit i meant in spring mulch round the crown

18/10/2013 at 08:57
Not a silly question at all - have been trying to find the answer myself ! Will be watching thread with interest. Thanks little-ann, your advice makes sense. I have, however, been worried before about rotting crowns if they are buried for the winter.
18/10/2013 at 09:03

If the perennial dies down completely, eg to a bulb or rootstock like a canna or hemerocallis, then you can mulch over it. If it only dies to a rosette at the base, then keep mulch out of the crown or centre of it.

18/10/2013 at 09:27

Ideally ...for me...mulching is about applying a thick layer of compost, etc to the soil after it has been cleared of weeds in the early spring.  However, I do it after planting something whatever time of year that is. Currently making new border and am mulching as I go regardless of what season it is.  Not this year, but in most years I will get a large load of mushroom compost or manure and apply it to my bare veg patch in October or November.  Come spring it will,be cultivated into the surface of the soil...apart from runner bean tremch I practise the "no dig" system.  

I think there is too  much theory and thinking about mulching.  If you live in a cold area a "mulch" of straw, etc or fleece under a cloche  may help protect crowns over winter but mulching for feeding the soil, for moisture retention, etc. can be done af any time.  It protects the top layer of soil and encourages worms and the like to do their work.

Heavy mulching in autumn can encourage rotting and often delays spring growth.  If you have heavy soil I would avoid this. Ideally mulch in spring when the soil is wet but mulch when you can to improve soil structure.  Oh!  If you mulch do so with generosity........don't spread it thinly over a large area

18/10/2013 at 10:35

I don't think it's a daft question at all, Order in the border - I have been musing over mulching myself recently! the thing is, all the advice in books etc seems to assume that you have a totally empty border, where everything dies down (at the same time) for a good old Autumn clear up and there is lots of bare soil. It probably assumes that people grow a lot of summer bedding and vegetables. 

In practice, I have found that that is rarely the case in my garden - I only have a tiny veg plot, and in my borders at the moment cyclamen are popping up, fuchsias are still flowering, lots of my perennials are still in growth - if slowing down a bit - and by the time they disappear underground for a rest, I find that my hellebores and early spring bulbs are starting to stick their noses out. In spring everything seems to get going very quickly, so there never seems to be a perfect time to mulch everything.

I tend to agree  with Verdun and prefer mulching "as I go" when planting, or when something has died back a bit leaving some bare soil. However, I have lots of leaf mould and compost now, having just emptied out the cooked stuff, and I don't have space to store it.  A week or so ago, I spread some of that about amongst the plants as best I could - but I forgot about the cyclamens, which sit very near the surface. They seem to be finding their way through though (I have spent a lot of time peering at the soil, to the consternation of my neighbours no doubt!). I spread about 2" of mulch in between plants. The rain tends to even it out and flatten it. At this time of year, the worms are very active and it gets taken down into the soil very quickly. In the spring, I will mulch again, adding some bonemeal to the compost - again, it's difficult to get the timing right in spring as the soil needs to be moist and if we have a dry spell that can delay my mulch and the plants are already  in growth.

As FB says best to avoid smothering the crowns of perennials if you can, and I make sure that any mulch is not in contact with woody stems of shrubs as it can rot them. 

I have also been wondering whether mulching will affect my recent application of nematodes (against slugs and vine weevil). From the amount of slugs I have seen whilst clearing up leaves, maybe it has.

18/10/2013 at 10:57

That's the other side of the coin Ginglygangly.  Mulches  tend to encourage slugs, etc.

Re namatodes, I don't  think a mulch will have any effect on them.  More likely is that eggs, etc have come in with the mulch. 

Bark chips as a mulch, for me, harbour woodlice as well as slugs n snails.  Not a mulch I like except for paths .

18/10/2013 at 11:45

Another thing that I think is worth considering is that if you want to encourage plants to self seed in the borders, then a 2 inch mulch over everything in the border in autumn covering all those seeds will tend to stop germination. I tend towards Verduns technique of mulching around plants when I am planting something new or "tickling" it around perennials where there is no room for other plants to grow.

18/10/2013 at 12:56

there you go OIB you pays your money you takes your choice 

19/10/2013 at 12:57

Thank you everyone for taking the time to help out - I am mulch clearer now!! Great advice, much appreciated

19/10/2013 at 14:20

re punkdocs answer, Monty Don mulched his jewel garden heavily last year, and then had to sow poppy seeds at the start of the season, because there were no selfsprinkled seedlings coming up.

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