Cool it with mulch

Heat wave number 2 or 3 is approaching, just in time for the first day of summer. How fitting.

Temperatures will hit 95 Wednesday and yes, 97, on Thursday.

What does that mean for your garden plants? They’ll be pretty parched, but you can help them keep their cool with a layer or two of mulch.

Now my husband says his grandparents never used mulch. Neither did mine, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t help.

Mulch insulates and protects soil  from drying and hard-baking effects caused by evaporation of water from soil exposed to hot sun and winds. Mulched soils are cooler than non-mulched soils and have less fluctuation in soil temperature, meaning plants grow evenly and their roots stay strong.

And, an added benefit: Mulching helps control weeds.

There are two kinds of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic mulches include formerly living material such as chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, compost, wood chips, shredded bark, sawdust, pine needles, and even paper. Inorganic mulches include gravel, stones, black plastic, and geotextiles (landscape fabrics).

Organic mulches also improve the soil as they decompose. Inorganic mulches don’t.

But black plastic warms the soil and radiates heat during the night, keeping heat-loving vegetables such as eggplant and tomatoes happy.  

Organic mulches can be applied to weed-free soil soon after planting.

To be most effective, mulch should be applied at least 2 inches deep, but not more than 4 inches deep. 

That’s right. More is not always better.

A thicker layer of mulch may be harmful to plants. Avoid piling mulch right up against trees. And avoid covering the stems and leaves of plants. Mulch is decaying matter, after all.

Check with your local government office to see if they Christmas trees and branches they cut. Stroud Township’s mulch is awesome, with grades of mulch from “cover up anything” to the “good stuff.”

Always ask what’s in the mulch. I swear I got poison ivy from mulch one year. Now I never touch it without wearing gloves.

This year, we stopped a tree guy down the street and asked him to dump some trimmings in our yard.

It’s not pretty but it’s perfectly natural and is breaking down quite nicely.

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