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Garden Terms: Frost Heaving & Winter Mulch

Gardening books and magazines are filled with terms and techniques that may be new to you or unique to certain gardening climates.  Frost heaving and winter mulch are two terms you may have stumbled upon in your search for gardening information. 

Frost heaving occurs when the soil temperatures fluctuate during winter. As the soil freezes and thaws throughout the winter cold and warm spells, it often shifts.  This shifting can push some plants out of the soil exposing their roots to cold dry temperatures.  It can also push bulbs out of the ground exposing them to hungry animals and the rigors of winter weather.

Winter mulch is one solution.  Consistent snow cover is the best winter mulch – but not always present. Evergreen boughs or straw are often used. These are placed over plants once the ground freezes. The goal is to keep it consistently cold until mild spring weather returns.

A bit more information: Winter mulch is removed as temperatures hover around freezing or plants begin greening and growing. Remove the straw and use it as mulch in the garden.  And leave the evergreen needles that drop off the evergreen boughs.  These make a great soil mulch and amendment and do not make the soil too acidic.


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