NUTLEY, NJ - Members of the Nutley Rotary club spent a part of New Year's Day working on the butterfly garden at the Nutley Public Library to protect it from weather extremes ahead of the Spring growing season.
Armed with garden gloves and pruning shears, the butterfly team cut branches from discarded Christmas trees to use as a temporary winter mulch. Unlike the usual mulches found in most suburban gardens, the branches are not in place to hold down weeds. instead they are here to reduce the effect of freeze thaw cycles..Being dark green, they blend into the garden very well.
Over the course of the winter, blowing leaves may catch on the branches and needles providing a loose cover over the planting bed. Anyone with a lawn or garden knows that there are times in the winter where a sunny,slightly warm day or two results in a top layer of mud that quickly freezes when the temperatures drop again. The layer of branches will help reduce the chance of those short term thaws.
Protecting the top layer of soil in the butterfly garden is essential for a great summer 2019 season. Seeds from some of last summer's flowers should have self sewn in the garden, protecting them means new plants. Additionally, the roots of the 2018 plantings are not fully established and a freeze thaw cycle may tear at tender new roots on those plantings.
The principals of using cut Christmas tree branches applies to home gardens as well. Home gardeners can place the branches over bulb gardens to protect tulips and crocuses from heaving. The branches will also help protect bulbs that peek out above the soil early from being stepped on, the branches are a signal that something is going on here.
One concern about using spend evergreen branches is acidifying the soil. Keep in mind that this mulch is a temporary winter mulch, once the garden springs back to life, the branches will be removed and placed in green bins for community composting. The few needles that fall on the soil won't have very much impact on the chemical makeup of the soil.
The butterfly garden, located just to the right of the front entrance, was planted in the summer of 2018 to create a perennial habitat for local and migrating butterflies. After doing a research, plants were selected, purchased, and planted, as a gift from the Nutley Rotary Club to the Nutley Public Library and its patrons.
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