Last year I was advised to put mulch around my Japanese maple to protect it over winter. It seemed to succeed. This year I am going to do the same thing but when should I apply the mulch? Before or after the first frost?
Newly planted Japanese Maples are fragile and sensitive to cold weather, frosts and wind. Alternate episodes of freezing and thawing are common in a Canadian winter. This causes garden soil to expand and contract which can break new roots and even push a new planting out of the ground. (A process called frost heaving). If your tree survived the winter of 2013/14 then the mulch did it’s job. Mulch is a first line of defence and will certainly help with protecting the tree’s roots. Mulch again this Fall putting a generous amount around the base of the Japanese Maple, when the soil first freezes. Use an airy material like straw, shredded leaves from your garden, bark, or even composted manure. From now until the first frost keep the tree well watered.
If the Japanese Maple isn’t too large add more protection in the form of a burlap screen attached to stakes around the tree. This will help protect the tree from damaging winter winds. And do not forget that snow is a great insulator.