With the holidays passed, we can start thinking about the garden again. In the next few weeks the garden catalogs will begin appearing in your mail box, but before you think about spring, starting seeds and new plants it is a good time to think about protecting what you already have.
My Christmas tree is still set up in my living room. I see those glances from my husband indicating that it is time to take it down before the needles are all over the floor and rug. If you have decorated your tree with strings of cranberries and popcorn (I used to do this when my children were younger) you can simply stand the tree outside and let the birds pick off the berries.
Another thought for that tree is to chop off the branches and use them for winter mulch. [lightbox link=”http://norcrosswildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/xmas-tree-cut-e1483651155633.jpg” thumb=”http://norcrosswildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/xmas-tree-cut-150×150.jpg” width=”150″ align=”right” title=”” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=””] Winter mulch is placed over plants that may be subject to wind burn (those with evergreen foliage), plants that are not fully hardy (some of those chrysanthemums you put in the garden for fall) or plants that are favorites of winter foragers. Pine boughs (or Christmas tree branches) should be used to cover the plants AFTER the ground is frozen. It helps if there is a light covering of snow on the ground, keeping the soils cold. The boughs keep the ground frozen by excluding sunlight which may thaw the ground on sunny days. They also keep the wind from whipping over the foliage. Plants that have persistent leaves (evergreens) can be dried by winter winds because the root zone is frozen and plants cannot replenish the water that they have lost through their leaves. The acidic pine or spruce needles will benefit Rhododendrons next spring as well. Tender perennials do not like the freezing and thawing cycle that is common in winter – especially when snow cover is thin. Winter mulch does not need to be applied heavily, a few boughs is enough to protect the plants[lightbox link=”http://norcrosswildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/winter-mulch-e1483651036600.jpg” thumb=”http://norcrosswildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/winter-mulch-150×150.jpg” width=”150″ align=”left” title=”” frame=”true” icon=”image” caption=””]
If you put the boughs on before the ground freezes the mulch actually encourages mice to live there where there is also a readily available food source. Now that our soils have frozen it is a good time to put those branches over parts of your garden. Recycling your Christmas tree in this way will help to protect the plants and replenish the soil in your garden.