Gardening Tips: Mulch Madness

The secret to a healthy and vibrant garden lies underground, with long, deep roots seeking water and nutrients. By caring for the soil in our gardens seasonally, we can control weeds, conserve water and have optimal plant performance.

Once a year, in March or April, your plants will greatly appreciate a thick layer of mulch to break down throughout the year and to create airways in the soil for its roots to travel. If the roots of our plants have to battle their way through compacted soil to tap into water and nutrient sources, they might just give up! If you’ve ever pulled a dead plant out of the ground and found puny, shallow roots, this could be the reason. Gypsum soil conditioner is another powerful compaction combatant. If you dip a handful of clay soil into powdery gypsum, the clay will break apart in your hand!

Creating airways in the soil isn’t the only things mulch is good for. Mulch captures and absorbs water so that it doesn’t just run off into the gutter; instead percolating into your soil and conserving moisture. Water conservation is conscientious and cuts utility costs! Watering deeply and less frequently is much better than watering often. We want the roots of our plants to reach deeply into the ground to find water. Vigorous gardens have deep roots!

A weed infestation is usually a sign of a soil deficiency. Applying mulch annually and the appropriate fertilizer seasonally is the greatest defense against weed germination. The mulch snuffs out sunlight and the fertilizer helps correct the nutrient deficiencies that weeds thrive on. Be careful when choosing fertilizer; fast-release fertilizers are just a quick-fix solution that will give your plants instant nutritional gratification but then leave them suffering like drug addicts when the nutrients wear off! I like to use an organic, slow-release fertilizer which rations its nutrients slowly throughout the season.

Have patience in your garden. It takes time for new plants to acclimate to their new home in the ground, and for healthy garden practices such as soil amendment to activate. To learn more about caring for your soil, and other gardening related questions, just ask me @susan@dirtyrootsgardening.com.



Categories: Gardening Tips, Lifestyle

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