Steele: Mulch now to reduce water use

One principle that everyone can take advantage of immediately is to cover all exposed soil with a layer of mulch.

GlenGrow mulch retains moisture in the Butterfly Garden at the unH2O Xeriscape Garden. Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (yarrow) and Salvia ‘Caradonna’ are blooming abundantly.

GlenGrow mulch retains moisture in the Butterfly Garden at the unH2O Xeriscape Garden. Achillea ‘Moonshine’ (yarrow) and Salvia ‘Caradonna’ are blooming abundantly.

With reports of drastic watering restrictions in California and Washington State, lower than average snowpack in the Okanagan and the early, dry spring, there is much concern about potential watering restrictions.

This has created a noticeable increase in interest in creating gardens using the Seven Principles of Xeriscape.

I’m often asked: ‘But what can I do to reduce water use in my existing garden?’

The one principle that everyone can take advantage of immediately is to cover all exposed soil with a layer of mulch, thus mimicking the layer seen on the forest floor.

The simple act of spreading a layer of organic matter over the surface of the soil reaps tremendous rewards.

It can reduce water use by 50 per cent or more.

Weed growth is negligible. Those that grow are easy to pull out.

The soil never gets a hard crust after watering or rainfall.

Plants thrive by being slowly and naturally fertilized by the organic mulch. They are sturdy, pest-free, and have abundant bloom.

Now is an excellent time to mulch but it can be done at any time in the growing season.

Before mulching, it is essential to remove all weeds. Covering them with mulch just makes them grow faster.

Soil must be moist before mulching. It is extremely difficult to moisten dry soil once it is covered with mulch.

Annuals, perennials, and ornamental grasses can have a one to two inch layer of mulch. All need a good supply of nitrogen so are best with nitrogen-containing mulches such as GlenGrow (city yard waste compost), OgoGrow (city biosolids composted with wood waste) or well-rotted manure.

OgoGrow is the highest in nitrogen.

Soil micro-organisms break these down to release nutrients that can be used by plants. As such, the mulch will need to be topped up most years.

Lawns benefit from a half to one inch layer of mulch in early spring and/or the fall.

This evenly feeds the lawn all season, enriches soil and reduces water use. Chemical fertilizers are not needed.

Nature’s Gold, which contains OgoGrow, is sieved to a finer texture making it a good lawn mulch. It can also be used on garden beds.

Shrubs and trees can be mulched with a three to four inch layer of the same materials or wood waste such as bark mulch or wood chips.

These are carbon and break down more slowly so only need replenishing every two to three years. In between, mulch can be freshened up with a light raking. This disturbs any weed seeds.

Keep mulch a few inches away from stems and trunks of shrubs and trees to avoid diseases and rodent damage.

Vegetable gardens benefit from one to two inches of mulch. If you want to know what you are eating, I recommend making your own compost for food gardens.

 

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