Summer Gardening – How Much Is Too Much?

We all want to do everything possible to benefit out garden spaces– since we get so much pleasure and satisfaction from a well-tended green space: tranquility while we relax and listen and smell Nature’s activities, bodily nourishment from herbs and veggies as well as the sensory stimulation of fresh- cut flowers.
But sometimes we can kill with kindness. “More is better” sounds logical but anything in excess can cause trouble. This time of year, we go outside, feel the heat and empathize with our plants: ” I’m hot and thirsty, so must be they” Especially when they look wilted and stressed. And they are stressed; many plants will look stressed midday but will recover by morning. Early morning is the optional time to water, before the sun and heat induce stress. Most irrigation systems are set up around this idea, but not everybody gets what they need. Close observation of plant condition is important to right amount of water at the right time. As plants mature, their root systems expand and increase their water take-up and ability to withstand stress. We hear a lot about the value of mulching: Controls weeds, conserves water and polishes off the final look.
All this is true, but there are plenty of things that are to hide in.
WEED CONTROL: Timing is important to get maximum benefit. Studies have shown that non-native invasive weed seeds germinate and start growing before native wildflowers and early mulching can control this. Keeping an air space close to delicate tissues prevents excessive moisture and risk of rot. Remember: Mulch will NOT kill or suppress established weeds.
CONSERVE WATER: A basic characteristic of mulch is the ability to hold and retain moisture. Be it a wood product, recycled rubber/plastic or various organic materials, everyone can find the balance of function and taste.
AS LONG AS IT DOES WORK: Again, “More is Better” becomes an issue. Generally, covering the root zone and bare areas a couple of inches is adequate, providing everything stays in place. Remove old mulch before applying a fresh layer, cultivate to loosen mulch and water deeply to saturate roots, preventing shallow roots prone to stress during heat/moisture fluctuations.
LOOKS ‘FINISHED’ It’s important to remember that the modern attitude toward mulch in the garden was brought to us by marketing: What once was a burdensome waste product of the timber/lumber industry now covers most every planting bed in the American landscape. The problem is they want us to consume as much as possible.
Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
Bottom Line: All the plants and other living things in our gardens look to us to FIRST DO NO HARM and hopefully do what we can to improve our personal spaces, the Bay and the environment at large so future generations may enjoy what we have and take for granted.

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