Mulch covers and protects the soil. Sometimes it is placed around plants and trees and other times it is placed on larger areas for landscaping or grass seeding. Mulches range from wood bark chips to pecan shells, shredded woody organic materials, grass clippings, or grain stalks.You’ve probably heard how important it is to use mulch whenever possible. But has anyone ever explained to you why you should use mulch?
- It helps retain water or moisture in the soil around the plant.
- Weeds are much easier to pull if mulch has been used. If you use organic mulch, be sure to check it regularly and replace when necessary as mulch will decompose and sometimes wash away.
- It prevents soil compaction.
- It helps keep soil temperatures moderate.
Other Maintenance Practices
In addition to mulching, there are other maintenance practices that help save water in the landscape.
- Mowing turf grass at the proper height helps conserve moisture. For example, the optimum height to mow St. Augustine grass for water conservation is three inches. The typical mowing height is 2-2½ inches. However, the taller height promotes a deeper, more water efficient root system. Taller grass acts like a living mulch, shading the ground, thus reducing moisture evaporation from the soil. Also, grass that is allowed to grow taller grows slower; therefore, it needs less water and mowing.
- Another maintenance practice that adds to the efficient use of water by plants is proper fertilization. Applying fertilizer to the lawn at the proper time and in the proper amount can save time, effort and money through reduced mowing and watering. If excessive amounts are applied, fertilizers can also be a major source of pollution of streams and groundwater.
- Fertilize the lawn once in the spring and again in the fall to produce a beautiful turf without excess growth that demands frequent watering. Use a slow-release form of nitrogen in the spring and a quick-release form in the fall. Apply only one pound of actual nitrogen fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn at one time. By using this fertilizer schedule, no other fertilizer is needed for most shrubs and trees in the lawn area.
- Other practices that add to the efficient use of water by plants are periodic checks of the irrigation system, properly timed insect and disease control, and elimination of water demanding weeds.
For more information on Xeriscape Landscaping, call the Office of Communication at 817-459-6402 or visit Arlington’s award-winning 2.2 acre Xeriscape Demonstration Garden located at Veteran’s Park, 3600 W Arkansas Ln.