Our last blog made suggestions about modifying your watering habits in the wake of our wet spring and uncertain summer. Mulch can reduce the amount of work, and guess work, that you would be facing otherwise.
Mulch plays a greater role in your landscape than just looking nice. Mulch moderates soil temperatures, reducing the time it takes for soil temperatures to reach extremes that traumatize plant roots. Two to three inches of a good quality, biodegradable, organic mulch “insulates” soil, holding heat and releasing it gradually. Since heat fills the void left by lack of heat, mulch will extend the time it takes for the sun to heat up soil each day. By the same token, mulch also extends the time it takes for the soil to cool down at the end of a sunny day.
Mulch does the same with water as it does with heat. It retains it and releases it over time. This moderates the amount of water that soaked into the root zones during our seemingly endless spring rains. If the weather turns hot and dry, the mulch will also retain your irrigation water and release it over time. The plants will actually be able to use it as they needed instead of having wet feet one day and parched roots the next.
There is a good reason why I mentioned biodegradable organic mulch above. This type of mulch does more than just look nice. It moderates temperature, holds water and, over time, decomposes and returns nutrients to the soil. It’s like nature’s fertilizer.
My personal mulch preference is double ground hardwood mulch because it is made from recycled debris from tree trimming operations. Recycling this material contributes to plant health while reducing the stream of waste going to landfills. Inorganic mulches like various types of stone chips don’t provide organic mulch’s added benefits.
I do not recommend colored mulch. Mulch sold for its color has dye in it and some dyes are harmful to plants. Our mulch is black, its natural color. As tan wood chips age, they take on a gray color which then darkens to black. Naturally black mulch will do the most good in your landscape.
This growing season has been rather unique to say the least. Spring was late in coming and when it did come, it brought with it inordinate amounts of rain and high temperatures. Plants like the status quo, and mulch is the best moderator you can apply to help them maintain this status quo.
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