Mulching potted bamboos

Our mild weather (it was 60ºF when I took these photos yesterday morning) will be swept to the south, replaced by frigid air and ice, sleet, or snow -- or probably a mix of all of them. Temperatures are expected to hit single digits F on a couple of nights, which means it's time to mulch.


I've got a lot of potted bamboos that need some protection to keep their roots, rhizomes, and rhizome buds from damage, and burying the pots in mulch is the easiest method I've found. Time is limited so easy is good, but in previous years I've dug a hole before burying them, laid the plants down and tarped over them, and built a greenhouse. This year it's just mulch.


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I've moved most of the pots that I want to protect into a single area this year:


Which leaves my driveway clear of bamboos:


There are a few stray pots I need to move:


But getting them all in one spot is a nice change from last year.

There will still be some under the deck stairs too...


...but I don't see them from the windows, so no big deal.

Let's get mulching!


The pots under the deck will have an advantage: the warmth of the house.

Those bigger pots out in back have more thermal mass though, and will get sun-warmed. The hard part about mulching lots of pots together like this is filling the gaps between them:


But dump enough mulch there and jam it down in the holes, and they'll be protected:


And the entire collection is now protected (to some extent):


I probably need to get more mulch to give them a thicker blanket, but this will have to do until Saturday.

Why didn't I do this earlier in the season, when the weather was warmer and arctic air wasn't approaching? I want to ensure that the mice, voles, and shrews have already found their winter homes -- I don't want them spending months burrowing around my bamboos, eating tender rhizome buds. By waiting as late in the season as possible, I reduce the chance of this happening.

I hope these early cold-air incursions aren't an indication of what the entire winter is going to be like!

Any last-minute cold weather preparations going on in your garden?

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Steve Lau  – (December 5, 2013 at 11:29 PM)  

Wouldn't it be easier to just put another one of your 4 mil tarps over them?

Alan  – (December 6, 2013 at 7:11 AM)  

Steve: Easier maybe. Tarping laid-down plants certainly protects the foliage. culms, and branches, but doesn't do much for the pots, which will get exposed to the lowest temperatures. I'd rather ensure that the root and rhizome system is as well-protected as possible. A plant with lots of green leaves and lots of dead rhizome buds is no good.

Alan  – (December 6, 2013 at 7:12 AM)  

Also, I don't like seeing big sheets of plastic for months. My winter garden is quite attractive now, and I don't want to ruin that.

Anonymous –   – (December 8, 2013 at 7:07 AM)  

Hey Alan,
Is that your Austrian pine looking healthy in the third pic? So hacking the roots worked, huh?
Take care, -jeremy

Alan  – (December 8, 2013 at 8:07 AM)  

Jeremy: Good eye -- it is indeed my Austrian pine, and although I didn't get it into the ground, I put it in a big nursery pot and it never blinked. :)

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