How to use mulch to keep your garden alive in a drought

Image for article titled How to Use Mulch to Keep Your Garden Alive During a Drought

Photo: tanakornsar (Shutterstock)

mulch is miraculous things. It keeps weeds at bay, fertilizes the soil and minimizes the effects of temperatures that are too hot (or too cold). Certain types even repel pests. But the best argument for mulching your garden is that it conserves water, which is a big deal for anyone dealing with hotter than normal summer temperatures. growing season.

When gardening in hot, dry conditions, mulch can be a matter of life and death. A thick layer around the base of your vegetables, flowers, trees, o Shrubs will insulate the soil from high temperatures and significantly slow down evaporation, meaning your plants actually have a chance to absorb the moisture they are given. Any mulch is better than no mulch, but the type of material you choose does matter.

i use itlightweight and compostable materials for vegetables and flowers

Light, loose-textured mulches such as grass clippings, pine needles, and straw are often a good choice for young plants and seedlings, as they are not heavy enough to stunt growth. Organic materials like these will eventually compost into the top layer of soil.. In fact, you can put these materials back in the soil between plantings or at the end of the planting season.

The drawback to lighter mulch materials is that you need a lot, enough to cover the ground by at least 2-3 inches, if not more. You’ll also need to maintain that depth as the mulch compacts and breaks down. If that’s high-maintenance for you (or you live in an extremely windy climate), look to wood chips, which don’t blow away as easily as lighter materials and generally require less effort. However, some wood chips break down too slowly to put back in the ground, so if that’s your goal, be sure to choose a compostable variety.

Use “Yoinorganic mulch” (aka rocks) for hardy trees, bushes and shrubs

Another option is so-called “inorganic” mulch material, which is usually made from crushed rock. Inorganic mulch lasts much longer than compostable and can offer serious protection against evaporation and weeds; for established, hardy plants and shrubs, it’s an attractive, low-maintenance option. Just be sure to do a little research before mulching your yard. What a blog post from the Texas A&M University Extension Program points out, the rocks reflect and they retain much more heat than organic mulch, which can have unintended consequences:

Remember that white rock radiates sunlight and can generate too much heat for most plants to survive. The black rock absorbs heat and can cause the ground temperature to be higher than normal. A word of caution: Inorganic mulches of this type are extremely difficult to maintain and keep clean under pines or other evergreens with very small leaves.

In other words, if you need to mulch some plants that are in direct sunlight or under certain types of trees, rocks may not be the best option.

get in eexpert mode with meliving mulch

You can also choose to a technique called “living mulch”, which is the practice of planting shorter plants as ground cover, or to fill in the spaces between taller plants. By choosing your plants wisely, you can grow a wider variety of vegetables (or flowers, or whatever) than you would with regular mulching while actively improving the quality of your soil.

There is no simple shortcut to selecting the right mix of low-growing hedge plants and taller plants; different growing regions will support different types of crops. Start by choosing what you want to grow and where, then find living mulch and companion planting guides to your particular hardiness zone. Without a doubt, this method requires more planning and effort than other mulching strategies, but if you have the time and the inclination, the results are definitely worth it.

Leave a Comment