All I want for Christmas this year is some moisture. I’m hoping that writing about moisture to Santa will be successful. Even though plants are mostly dormant, adequate soil moisture aids in plant health. A good amount of rain now would be welcome. Snow doesn’t have much moisture generally, but it is beneficial.

A layer of mulch will reduce soil evaporation. Since we haven’t had much moisture, we don’t want to lose what we have. Mulch will moderate the soil temperature fluctuations. The freeze and thaw cycle can damage roots of some perennial plants.

Woodchip mulch is a good choice. A coarse mulch requires a 3- to 4-inch layer while fine materials can be applied in 1- to 2-inches. They do breakdown overtime enriching the soil which nurtures plants. Having healthy plants is the goal. Rock mulch doesn’t nurture plants.

Chopped up tree leaves can aid in conserving moisture. An inch at the most would do the trick. This is a good use for any leaves you have laying around.

Another option is straw or hay. Either is commonly used on strawberries at this time of the year. These are fine for use on most plants and in particular perennials. One challenge is keeping these in place. Wetting them down after applying will help. A drawback to mulch is in creating a home for rodents that chew on our desirable plants.

Compost is usually mixed into the soil to aid plants. A layer of finished compost would serve as a mulch if desired. Any material added to the soil surface will reduce evaporation.

The best winter mulch is likely snow cover. Currently there is a shortage. It might be a supply problem which I hope gets resolved soon. Snow is a commonly used mulch further north. It gets applied early and usually reapplied throughout the winter.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the K-State Research and Extension website at ksre.ksu.edu. And you contact Gregg Eyestone at the Riley County office of K-State Research and Extension by calling 537-6350, stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mailing geyeston@ksu.edu.

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