Designing Beautiful Borders

Mulching to prevent drought

During the summer of 2018 I found it necessary to water my garden to prevent well established plants from dying. For me this was a first. The theory goes that any shrub which has been in place for more than two years should be able to fend for itself. After such a prolonged period without rain, my shrubs were not listening to the theory and I had to administer emergency rehydration therapy to several wilting specimens.

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With an ever-changing climate, last year’s drought is unlikely to be a one-off, so this year I am taking steps to try and prevent the soil from drying out again.

During warm weather a large proportion of soil moisture is lost through evaporation. The best way to prevent this from happening is to add a thick mulch to the soil.

A mulch is simply a covering of something and includes compost, manures, bark chip, gravel, crushed shells and even plastic sheeting.

Mulches also serve other purposes. Compost and manures contain nutrients and improve soil structure. Bark chip works well on shrub borders and helps to suppress weeds. Bark chip also looks decorative.

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With the soil starting to warm up, it’s a good time to consider a mulch. A mulch should be applied to damp soil that isn’t frozen, at a thickness of 5-10cm. Mulching should be completed before the soil dries out in late spring, which after this week’s deluge still feels a long way off.