With water conservation on the minds of many California residents, especially in summer, a simple way to reduce the amount of water needed to maintain a healthy yard is to place a layer of mulch around trees, shrubs and gardens, say experts at Agromin, an Oxnard-based manufacturer of earth-friendly organic compost products.
“A thick layer (2 inches to 4 inches) of mulch placed in gardens and landscapes helps hold in moisture after watering. The water can better penetrate deeply into the soil to reach plant and tree roots,” said Bill Camarillo, Agromin CEO. “Mulch reduces water evaporation and also acts as an insulator from the hot summer sun. All this means less watering is needed. Watering schedules can be extended an extra day or two depending on the weather and plant type.”
Prior to adding mulch, Camarillo suggests prepping the soil first.
“If your soil is primarily clay, add composted amendments to help keep the soil loose and aerated so water can more easily travel into the soil,” Camarillo said. “For sandy soil, compost gives the soil substance that prevents soil erosion.”
Organic mulch is often made from chopped leaves, grass clippings or shredded bark and wood. Inorganic mulch can be rocks, gravel and plastic material.
“Organic mulch has the advantage because it enriches the soil as it decomposes,” Camarillo said. “Mulches with more wood content provide fewer nutrients and decompose slowly. Softer mulches contain more nutrients but decompose quickly.”
When laying mulch, leave a 5-inch radius around each plant.
“You don’t want the mulch to touch the plants because the constant moisture invites plant disease,” Camarillo cautions. “Rake the mulch every so often to expose new mulch. Since organic mulch decomposes over time, when only a thin layer remains, add more.”
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— Diane Zakian Rumbaugh is a publicist representing Agromin.