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When Stepping On Your Plants is A Good Thing – Frost Heaving

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Dear Casual Gardener,

It looks like something has gotten in my perennial bed and pushed up all my plants? What’s up with that and how do I get rid of that varmint?


Vexed About Varmints

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Dear Vexed,

My theory is it’s not a varmint at all, Vexed! Sounds like you are suffering from “heaving” to me. And no, I’m not describing that unfortunate situation which happens the day after you drink too much champagne! Heaving is a condition which refers to “frost heaving” and it occurs when the soil is alternately frozen and thawed repeatedly through autumn, winter, and spring.

frost heaving

The preventative solution is proper mulching. You should have at least two inches of mulch on your perennial beds and it will: 1) reduce moisture loss in summer by twenty-one percent, 2) reduce the upper four inches of soil temperature [in summer], by ten degrees F and, 3) delay soil temperature in winter from reaching the freezing temperature by two days compared to unmulched soil. Mulching is good for your garden and will help prevent heaving.

frost heaving

Particularly from New Year’s Day until early spring, the freezing and thawing cycle can result in plant heaving and subsequent loss of the exposed plant roots and crowns, so it is important for you, as soon as you notice the condition, to get the plants back in the ground. Plants can be pushed down by stepping on the plant very gently. Add soil to cover exposed roots if the ground is too frozen, temporarily correcting the problem until you can get out in warm weather to more permanently repair the situation.

Let’s all toast to proper mulching and no heaving!

Shawna Coronado says Get Healthy! Get Green! Get Community!

Make a Difference In Your Community with “America In Bloom”

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One Comment

  1. Shawna,

    along with recycling…I put down a layer of newspaper first, then pile the mulch on top.

    I haven’t noticed any heaving. But, then again, I don’t give my plants Champagne…they get beer!

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