Gardening Irrigation Mulching

Drought Prevention

Drought is common in July and August … and so are municipal or state watering restrictions! The best way to avoid problems with your plants (and with the powers that be!) is to apply up to 3 or 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) of organic mulch (wood chips, shredded leaves, etc.) over the soil in flowerbeds and vegetable patches as well as over the roots of trees and shrubs.

Mulching around a tree
Mulch reduces evaporation. Photo: Josn Jennifer S. Kimball, catalog.archives.gov

Mulch acts as a barrier against water loss through evaporation, so the soil will remain moister, even in the heat of summer. Plus it keeps the soil cooler, upping its water retention. Even mulch applied when your garden is already suffering from drought can help, but it’s more efficient to mulch your garden before the drought begins, thus stopping evaporation before it starts.

Dormant lawn
Lawns yellow in the summer. Don’t worry, they are only dormant!. Photo: Famartin, commons.wikimedia.org.

As for lawns, just let them go into summer dormancy. Yes, they may become completely yellow, but will green up again with the return of fall rains. So simply don’t bother watering your lawn during a drought.

More information on mulching here: The Benefits of Mulching.

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

4 comments on “Drought Prevention

  1. That does not prevent a drought though. The weather still happens. (Besides, [as I mentioned earlier] drought is not a ‘regular’ and annual weather pattern. If it happens annually, it is a normal component of the climate. A drought is a weather pattern that is atypically dry for a particular climate.) This only helps to conserve moisture and limit the damage of desiccation.

  2. Good advice. Mulch is the way to go but remember no tot overdo it. More is not necessarily better. We call them ‘mulch mountains’. In perennial beds the idea is to mulch to get the plants started and then let the plants fill in to mulch themselves. Vegetable gardens are a little more challenging especially when starting from seed. Friends and neighbours provide me all of their bagged leaves which I use to keep the soil covered during the winter and in the summer when everything is up. Especially good for mounding spuds. Super clean and easy to harvest.

  3. Derek Bull

    I’m a convert to mulching! The last couple of years, after digging the plot, and no I don’t leave it in clods ‘for the frost to get to it’ I break it down fine and remove just about every weed root I see, and then,,, I apply around 4 inches of ‘digestate’ that is free from our local green energy power plant. so it sits there all winter, the birds love turning it over for the worms all winter long, and in the spring all that’s left is a two inch layer of fine straw,(the manure has dissolved into the soil) I scrape a channel through the straw layer and pull a seed trench through it to plant the seeds, it then needs a narrow strip of mesh over it to stop the birds from turning it over and all’s good.
    During the first really hot fortnight if you brushed aside the straw you could grab a handful of soil and it would clump together! whilst others have seen the first 2 inches of soil turn to dust!
    Mulching is the way forward! I’ve a wonderful crop of tomatoes due to the fact that they have a reservoir of damp soil all around them.

  4. So Mr. Laidback Gardener, I used to rely on local township leaf recycle mulch programs as all of my plants nutritional and drought tolerance needs. Howmever, that’s no longer an option. So I’ve purchased a couple fertilizers and have started to apply them with the concept of “hit it with a different molecule”, literally a hangover from my weed smoking days and tired of one batch. So aside from that, I use Agrothrive(3-3-2), Trifecta(5-10-4), and Mighty Plant(8-2-6) products. But my application differs from the directions. Instead of their recommended dosage, I 1/12 that and use it daily. So I mix up 3 gallon batches and put them in 1/2 gallon containers for future watering.

    My question to you, is, do you think this is a worthwhile practice? I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks so it’s too early to tell. But let me say that I haven’t had thicker tomato stems ever. I had been using the Agrothrive all season, the others more recent.

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