Solve the Root of Your Landscape Problems!

by Donna Kauffman

The most important thing a Homeowner can do for their landscape is to keep a sufficient covering of mulch on the bed areas. The purpose of mulching the soil is to conserve moisture, buffer temperature extremes, and suffocate weed seedlings.

Conserving moisture in the landscape is an important thing we can all do for our Texas soils. A 2-inch layer of mulch prevents water from evaporating into the air, thus allowing the soil below to remain moist. Reducing water loss leaves more moisture for the plant roots. A mulched soil will absorb more water and stop erosion.

Mulching also serves the purpose of reducing temperature extremes. A mulch applied in early summer before the soil heats up will allow the plant roots to stay cool. A barren soil will heat to temperatures above 120°. Tests have shown the same mulched soil to stay at a consistent 70-90 degrees. Soils will still heat up, but mulching prevents the temperature extremes. Plant material will thrive when soil is kept uniform while air temperatures are fluctuating.

Another benefit of mulching is that the roots can establish a deep, vigorous healthy system. In horticulture this is the most crucial variable in fighting insects and diseases. Suffocating weed seedlings is also an important benefit of mulching. Seedlings will germinate and then suffocate under a 2-3″ layer of mulch, due to lack of light.

Anything can be used as a mulch as long as you are adding a protective layer; newspaper, leaves, pine bark, sawdust, wood chips, pecan shells. Availability will determine expense and ease of application of different mulch sources. Mulching is often expensive after having already installed a landscape. You must appreciate the practice if you want your plant material to survive mother nature. Consider the vigor and size of forests, for example, compared to the more arid, exposed regions.

Other advantages of mulch are the benefits it has of breaking down into compost. Cultivating mulch into soil during the growing season, primarily in the spring and fall months, adds water holding capacity, nutrient value and improves soil texture. Reapply mulch prior to temperature extremes in early winter.

If you want to get to the root of your problems in bed areas, apply a generous 2″ layer of mulch. Let’s get those landscapes established, so they can survive the many extremes of the Texas weather.