(Zone 4b)

In another thread there is mention of possibly holding off on applying protective mulch until until after the plant has gone into dormancy. The reasoning being that applying significant mulch prior to that might delay dormancy.

This leads to the obvious (simple?) question as to when can one tell when a perennial has gone dormant (in the Autumn).

Can one assume that a killing frost, the one that lays herbaceous foliage to mush implies dormancy?

Maybe one can't tell easily if a perennial is dormant prior to the snow flying?

(It has been my experience that ground doesn't freeze until well into winter which leads me to think that if a frozen root ball is required of dormancy then it may not occur till much later into winter.)

This message was edited Nov 4, 2014 9:53 AM

This message was edited Nov 4, 2014 11:20 AM

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

When the foliage is "mush" then I would say it is in dormancy or should be. Be careful on applying too much mulch to perennials and especially around the crown as this may cause rot and be a breeding ground for slugs, insects, and disease. Also too heavy a mulch can lead to a protection layer for voles too. Found that out at our last house thinking a good layer of leaves for my hostas would be a good thing. The next year after raking the leaves away I found many half tunnels and eaten roots of the hostas. Seems like sometimes you just can't win.

I would suggest that dormancy means not growing or growing so slowly that it is hard to discern any growth at all.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

This message was edited Mar 4, 2015 1:55 AM

Emory, TX(Zone 8a)

Do perennials "have to" go dormant?

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

This message was edited Mar 4, 2015 10:09 AM

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Blooma, good information on dormancy. I did not realize this concept.

A few questions:
1. Don't you think there's a difference between your snow insulated plants and my cold, plants with no insulating snow? (temperatures get down to 0 but not real long or often) I'm thinking my plants would enjoy some winter mulch.
2. Why do you read often to mulch your plants if they are on the edge of a colder zone with rocks or wood?

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I do most of my planting in the Spring so I don't mulch except with grass clippings against weeds.

Snow can act as a good insulator but only if it stays. This year it is the first year that snow have stayed more than 2 weeks due to the low temp. It usually melts within days.

You can use rocks and/or wood to mulch with but apply after ground is frozen. You may not need mulch unless you have recently planted.

This message was edited Mar 4, 2015 10:10 AM

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

I suppose the heat from the sun can be stored in the stones and released at night but that only goes so far. Stones also do not break down like leaf/bark/straw mulch so is a permanent mulch but also has drawbacks like collecting leaf litter and debris. Seems like a mulch is a mulch no matter what kind it is but there are benefits and drawbacks to the different types. Aesthetics, cost, weight, permanence, effectiveness?

I find a stone mulch also helps against rodents digging - squirrels in particular.

Natick, MA

I think of the natural seasons with leaves falling and plants going dormant on at their time...and wonder why applying mulch is any different than leaves falling in the autumn? My goal is to mulch my entire garden with leaf mulch (will take me a while to build up that much leaf mulch after I shred what I have and perhaps wait another season for more leaves -- :o) ) and grass clippings to 1. keep moisture in year round, esp'lly summer and 2. keep the weeds down. So what's the different between year round mulch and mulching for winter....a heavier mulch around the roots/plant?

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

It's a personal decision on what kind of mulch to use or mulch at all. Rocks being permanent are a hassle to dig out if you need to change something out whether adding something new or removing something old. It does look tidy in some settings.

I used a leaf blower on all my leaves this year to pile them around shrubs and trees where they will provide some nutrients as they decay. If the leaf pile gets too high though it makes an excellent cover for burrowing rodents which may be eating the roots of your perennials. That happened at our last house where I let a few years of leaves build up around azaleas and rhodies with hostas planted underneath. Little did I know voles were busy eating the roots of the hostas. GRRR!

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Well, golly gee, Blomma! Thanks for the enlightenment. I spend waaayyy too much money on wood mulch each year. It has worked for me to keep down the weeds, but wow, I think I will save my money and put grass down. It breaks down much faster, need a place to put the cut grass, and it gives nutrients to the soil quicker. What more would one want? I've been leery of grass clippings due to grass and weed seeds. Can someone comment about this? I know it's okay to put grass down that hasn't gone to seed, but sometimes, we don't get it cut quick enough for one reason or another, and we have seeds on the grass. I guess I don't care too much for the aesthetics. If I had to choose aesthetics or better soil due to mulch, I will choose better soil. But, like h..dole says, it's a personal decision.

I don't use rock mulch. Weeds grow through the rocks, and it's hard to get to the roots. Plus, for my area, they give too much heat in the summer. I have put rocks around a colder than zone plant to hopefully help it through the winter. Blomma, what about that? :) I guess those are the ones you mulch after the ground freezes. And, when you mulch after frozen ground, does it matter which mulch you use?? Rock, Wood etc.?? My ground, right now, is frozen about 1/2". Is that enough? Or, do I need to wait until it is more frozen?

valal: What kind of shredder do you have? I've looked at them, but they seem dangerous. Using leaf mulch everywhere would be wonderful. I can get lots of leaves from area yards in the fall, but haven't because of finding an area to dump it and waiting until it breaks down. Shredding would help a lot. Plus, if it isn't broken down, I get others yard weed seeds. :(

Natick, MA


this fall I bought a leaf shredder at Harbor Freight for several reasons including the cost. I really didn't want one that used a line (like a edge trimmer) vs blades. I figured I'd constantly be replacing that and or it wouldn't be that "powerful". Most of the other shredders that were under $400-500 had SMALL feeding holes and I'd be there FOREVER. The one I got works well after my husband took off the stiff safety rubber flap over the feeder and after the break in period where I can run it at top speed. You still have to feed slower than I'd like or it gets stopped up; I found its better to feed on one side of the chute also (live and learn) I shredded ALOT of leaves before a foot problem stopped my progress (totally unrelated ) and it breaks down those leaves in a nice mulch (gotta do alotta leaves as the pile seems to break down to approx 1/10 of b4-shedder. We have a lot of leaves and for positional reasons I can't bring in much soil or mulch as it has to be hauled up by hand (no good access) so to me, it was a good solution to use what nature was giving me to improve soil as well as keeping weeds down.

It's time consuming but I figure it's time spent improving my garden......and as for dangerous, you have to use common sense and not put your hands or clothing anywhere near the blades or into chute. My hubby is brilliant and brought me a hoe to use when the leaves got's flat so you can put in chute and push leaves into blade while not engaging them as a piece of wood or something else would if you shoved it into chute.

Maybe you should start a post on here asking about other people's shredders and their experience.

Another big purchase this year was a Mantis 20 lb (relatively small) tiller . I did a lot of research and watched YouTube videos and read a lot. I was almost skeptical that it would be as powerful and do what they said it would. Absolutely the best purchase I could have made. I made a lot of garden beds this year where grass was...and probably would have done 1/10 or less without it.

Hope this info helps...glad to answer any other questions!

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Thanks for all of your good information. I believe you covered it all.

We're interested in a small tiller. We have a relatively large Troy Built (Husb. says 200#). It's not their biggest. Anyway, we used it when we first moved here, as this land was pasture before we came. It worked very well for what we needed. We no longer open up more flower beds. I have enough weeding and mulching to do and don't want more gardens. Now, we use a small tiller. Ours is worn out (Mantis), and we are in need of a new one. We are shopping for one that perhaps I can use vs. just husband.

20# sounds kind of heavy--but maybe not. On another forum somewhere? a gardener purchased a tiller. She did not mention the brand. Hers was a 4 cylinder and used only gas vs. gas and oil. So, in comparison, how many cylinders is yours and does yours use gas and oil?? This woman also did a lot of research before buying. She said she was able to use the tiller herself.

I am going to attempt finding the thread so I can ask her the brand. It is very hard to find old threads on this website. It used to have a very nifty search task, but they took it away and never replaced it with anything useful.

Powder Springs, GA(Zone 7b)

I think you meant 4 stroke which uses just gas whereas a 2 stroke uses a gas/oil mix. Most tillers, mowers, small engines are just one cylinder.

My dad has the Troy Bilt Horse tiller which I think was the biggest model made. I went in with my daughter and bought the Troy Bilt pony tiller which is a bit smaller but still plenty of power to churn up a plot. A small lightweight tiller would be the Mantis and a lot of manufacturers have copied that design. Looks like they've added quite a few different models since we bought ours about ten years ago.

I had a big Troy Bilt chipper/shredder. It does a good job of reducing giant piles of brush and leaves to manageable piles of mulch. The downside is it is heavy, loud, and lots of work running material through it. Also be very careful on safety with the chipper chute itself. I about lost my mouse finger in my chipper because I rammed a limb too far down in the chute with my hand and the chipping blade grabbed my glove. $1400 chipper was cheap compared to medical bills totaling over $5,000 for the ER visit and a few days later surgery by a hand specialist. It took weeks of rehab to feel halfway useable again.

Getting back to stone mulch - you can put weed cloth as an underlayment if you don't want any weeds to come up or you could just spray with a weed killer as you see weeds come up. You would still have weeds coming up in any kind of mulch - stone, leaves, bark, etc. Pine needle mulch/bark mulch should be replenished at least every other year - possibly 3 years. I bought 100 bales of pine needle mulch about 2 years ago from Home Depot and it looks like it needs replenishing now. Bark mulch is kind of low too. At least I don't need to add to the stone areas since they are permanent (stone is heavy and expensive so you may want to hire someone to lay it).

This is a dry stream bed we had put in years ago. I planted 3 gallon pots of variegated Asian Jasmine on one side and over the years it grew over to the other side which covered the middle. This year I took the weed whacker to the middle and sprayed with Round Up to keep it clear. In this case the stones not only act like a mulch but also slow down moving water across the property.

Thumbnail by hcmcdole
Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Very very pretty. We have a lot of water on our property.

Natick, MA

I'm pretty sure that post discussing gas vs gas and oil mix was me. I had posted asking people for suggestions for a good workhorse type tiller, on the smaller side that would do what I wanted it to...and didnt get alot of input, so after much research I bought the Mantis.

check out their website and there are diff
different smaller tillers, I bought the 4 cycle that I wouldnt have to mix (one less step to easy use)
I bought directly from Mantis on line because they offer a 90-day money back guarantee and I wanted to make sure it would do what it advertised and what I wanted to do. It DOES.
It also has a 5 yr warranty on the tiller and a lifetime guarantee on the stainless steel blades.
The 2 blade pieces come off the bottom (slide off after taking off the clip) easily if roots, etc get tangled in the blades. 20# sounds heavy, but dont think you'll find one that works as well a any lighter. The weight pushes down on the blades underneath to help it do the work.

This is the tiller on their site that I bought, and you can go above and click "tillers" to see other models if you want:

If you're looking for the original post,
this is mine:

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

These daylilies are definitely dormant, even without snow cover (which came later)

This message was edited Mar 4, 2015 10:11 AM

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Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Oh so funny! The prior website regarding purchasing a small tiller was you! And, 4 "cylinder"--4 "cycle". It shows you how much I know about all of those garden machines!
I haven't studied the websites posted above yet. It's getting to be my bedtime. I will study them tomorrow, but thanks to all who posted about tillers. We intend to buy one before Spring.

I will not be buying a shredder. I have always thought I'm too careless for one of those. I thought maybe they had made something safer since I researched them years ago. I'm way too much of a scardy cat, but thank you for the very sincere warning. I hope your finger/hand has full use again.
I used landscape mulch years ago. I thought it worked pretty well as a weed barrier, but eventually weeds started popping up through it. Also, I couldn't plant anything where I had put the landscape fabric.

And blomma:
Yes, I agree with the rock mulch vs. something that's going to improve the soil.
I do have another question. I was unable to put my gardens to "bed" like I usually do this fall. I have quite a bit of frozen plant material in my gardens. I know one is suppose to take away all plant matter to discourage bugs laying their eggs etc. So, what's the difference between putting straw down vs. leaving frozen plant matter around the plants to break down and turn into soil. Why will bugs lay eggs amongst plant matter and not the straw?
I suppose I still need to get out there and take the plant matter away and mulch. I have pine mulch in bags waiting on me. Also, regarding wood mulch. I get a lot of nut grass from the wood mulch. I will work on the search directions-later. It's getting too late.

Regarding weeds in general: I guess one just has to get out there and pull the stinkers!

Rouge, I think I hijacked your website. Sorry.

Natick, MA

Hi Blomma,
No, I didnt mean what is the difference between leaves falling to cover the garden in the fall and putting shredded leaf mulch, I meant I plan to use shredded leaves as a mulch year round, so what's the difference if I put it down before the freeze vs. waiting til after the freeze if it's something that's going to be year round? I did get your suggestion above that heavy mulch around the plants for winter cover need to be moved to allow new growth to come through fine.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm planning shredded leaf mulch for the whole garden year round vs. just as a heaving protection for winter. So it really doesnt matter for me when to put it down (before/after freezing)

Also, I did say that I had a light leaf cover from leaves falling, but this is only because I had a foot issue and had to stay off my feet as much as possible since mid-Nov. til now (still dealing) and so the leaves that fell since have stayed and we will blow them off early spring when hopefully I'm up and around and back to normal!

(Zone 4b)

Right now I notice that for all our clematis, if I trimmed back the apparent dead vegetation I would see green at the cuts which seems to indicate that even the apparent 'dead' material isn't really dead?

As well even in very cold weather, say in late February or early March I see new buds of growth...even with snow all around.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

bider17, Sorry I missed your question "So, what's the difference between putting straw down vs. leaving frozen plant matter around the plants to break down and turn into soil. Why will bugs lay eggs amongst plant matter and not the straw?

The only difference I can think of is that eggs may already have been laid on frozen plant material before straw is put down. Not all eggs are laid in the fall, depending on which bug.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Year around mulch would be more or less the same if it is to prevent weeds, and/or protect against heaving in the winter. BTW, I lived in the tri-state of MA for 20 years before moving West so I am familiar with the climate. I never planted anything past September there either.

This message was edited Mar 4, 2015 10:12 AM

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I "think" the bugs lay their eggs in the garden debris before it ever freezes, and that's why one should get the garden debris away from the garden plants.
So now, I am wondering what to do. Today, it is gently raining--more like we're in a cloud. I was walking around in my garden seeing all the frozen garden plant material. Since it's already dead, and I'm too late to get rid of it to keep the bugs out (at least that is what I think!),

do you think it would be okay to just lay the dead, frozen, garden debris down onto the garden beds. Wouldn't it be "compost" then??

I suppose for "Lasagna Composting" I would need something else to layer on top of it, but I don't know what that would be.

I think I want to lay the stalks and leaves down as I don't like how it looks right now.

Or, maybe, I should haul it all out of the garden?

So sorry to hear about your foot problem. In the past, I have some foot troubles myself. It's very frustrating.

I think the inside of the Clematis vines stay green year around. I do have quite a bit of "green" yet in my garden. The next two months will take care of that. We don't usually have cold weather until January and February. So, really 8 months of pretty cold weather. And even at that, it's a "little" snow, some sleet. Even when it's pretty cold here, 20+ degrees for the high and teens for the lows, we don't usually have wind. Therefore, one can go outside for short periods w/o a heavy coat etc.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

If you have had damaging bugs in the past, or don't like the looks of it, I would rake and get rid of dead plant material. Nothing compost during cold or freezing weather.

This message was edited Mar 4, 2015 10:14 AM

Natick, MA

I ordered some starter plants in early July and Aug. And delivery kept getting changed later and later (don't get me and learn!) So hoping all my mid-oct. plantings make it thru the winter

I will never take my feet or toes for granted again, Birder! LOL!
Sounds like you are worrying too much...if you don't clean up in the'll be there to doin the spring. If you feel like it, lay yr stalks down and they will decompose some...or use them in compost pile if you want to haul them. I was going to do a small lasagna bed but between my foot and the weather I gave up thoughts til spring.
You could throw some soil, leaves,peat moss...any/all of those on the stalks to "lasagna"

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

valal, I would definitely mulch your mid-Oct plantings after the ground has frozen. You can put some mulch now just not so thick, then add to it.

Keep your invoice incase the plants don't survive the winter. I surely would not order from them again. Hope you mentioned that in their feedback, if possible.

Sorry about your foot, Kind of hard to garden with a sore foot. Sure hope it heals soon.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I mainly don't like the looks of the gardens. They look messier than I like them.
Yes, they certainly will wait for me till next spring!

Natick, MA

Try not to look at them....sorry, just KIDDING! :o)
Mostly all of my perennials have died back, so there's not much sticking up and looking unkempt.
I think it's good if you can putter around and like to do so. I'm kind of sad (going thru winter garden withdrawls) but hope to wintersow soon. had a procedure on my foot so hope in a week or two I'll be doing ALOT better and be able to get all this done!

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Yes! Good idea! I'll just look the other way when I walk by. HA
I'm so sorry to hear about your foot. I feel for you.
Hang in there -it will pass.
Look on line and make plans for the summer.
Moving plants ordering plants I need to order a couple of Clematis
Maybe you could do the research for me? Ha!
Take care.

Natick, MA

Lol! :-)
Foot on the mend anyway..they finally pinpointed problem so hoping I'll be dancing soon! (I'll settle for walking w/o pain!)

I just bought/planted my first clematis this fall (starter plant)...nelly moser. Didn't do a lot of research b4 but just came across a top rated DG seller that listed their clematis by "good for beginners"/ easy to grow, etc which I thought was great. I bookmarked it I think......let me see if I can find it.
What r u looking for in your clematis purchases?

Am doing umpteen perusing of plants and seed sites, planning winter sowing soon, and extensions of garden beds and making a new bed! My being on vendor sites not too great an idea as I want to BUY :-) But hoping my winter sowing goes well!

silver spring, MD(Zone 7a)

Hi all! Speaking of tillers, I have the Mantis electric tiller. I got it last spring and I absolutely adore the thing. It works wonderful and I can use it without hurting my back (major issue for me). Because its electric there are no emmissions (important to me) and all I have to do is turn a switch to get it going. Wish they had a shredder/chipper.


Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

The 3rd photo shows the seed heads.

During a walk with my DD in Janurary, we came across a vine with the same seed heads as below. I know it is a Clematis so took seed to sow after I see what it is when it blooms around June.

This message was edited Mar 4, 2015 10:16 AM

Thumbnail by blomma Thumbnail by blomma Thumbnail by blomma
Natick, MA

Yes, blooms, my Nellie Moser clematis is pink and white....see web photo below..but there is more than one pink and white.....I think Saracens is another. Hoping my clematis an easy one....and that it survives this winter we're having!
Looking forward to seeing yr first blooms this yr!!

Yehudith..I concur about Mantis. Would be great if they had a smaller POWERFUL shredder/chipper!!!

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Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

Yep, that is the one I would buy if I was going to buy a clematis. Never seen seeds for them.

silver spring, MD(Zone 7a)


Your mouth to G-d's ear. Maybe one day they'll get the hint.


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