not use whole leaves as mulch around plants for winter protection?
A few months ago I planted small "China Boy" and "China Girl" holly
plants -- we have many trees on our properly and I just left the
whole leaves around these plants, thinking that they would protect
the small hollies over winter . . .
Should I purchase wood mulch instead?
problem is with the "whole" leaves – shredded leaves are great. Although it
depends on the tree species, whole leaves tend to mat together
and become water repellent. Oak leaves, for example, tend to
break down very slowly – they may look the same next spring as
they do right now. If they do mat together, they may become
water repellent or hydrophobic, and create drought stress
symptoms, especially in small plants such as your newly planted
Maple leaves mat down if left whole,
so be sure to shred them before use
There is no
need to purchase wood chips now. You may eventually want to
purchase them to mulch your hollies. Coarse mulch such as large
pine bark nuggets or coarse shredded hardwood have less tendency
to become water repellent than fine mulch such as miniature bark
You could also shred your leaves, regardless of species,
and use them for mulch. As they break down, shredded leaves add
valuable nutrients to the soil. Your instincts regarding how
valuable leaves can be is perfect – after all, no one is out in
the woods or meadows spreading 10-10-10.
Leaf mulch should be no more than three to four inches deep and
should not physically contact the stems of your hollies – or any
other plant for that matter.