Summer Garden Mulch
During the heat of summer, our gardens put on a lot of growth. Unfortunately, the weeds can begin to take off as well. Adding a summer mulch can help with your weeding, conserve water, and cool the soil.
Reasons to Mulch Your Garden
Using mulch for your garden any time of year is beneficial. Adding mulch in the summer provides unique advantages. Weeding is probably our least favorite activity. Adding a mulch in the summer will help you by suppressing the weeds growing in your garden. If a weed manages to make its way through your mulch, it will be easier to remove. Water conservation is always on our minds. The mulch you add will conserve water by reducing evaporation. Cooling the soil is another benefit of adding mulch to your garden. Cooler soil can extend your harvesting season of cool season crops and will even help you get a second crop of cool season plants earlier.
Types of Mulch
In a pinch, you can easily use your grass clippings as mulch for your garden. However, take care when going this route, however. If you are using herbicides and certain insecticides on your lawn you will not want to add these clippings to your garden. Grass clippings take a long time to break down, so they should be removed at the end of the year and given time to decompose in a compost pile.
Using straw as a mulch should generally be avoided. Straw adds almost nothing to the soil as it decomposes. While it can help control the weeds and conserve water. Ultimately, there are better options. Straw can also add more weed seed than other mulches.
Using bark shavings is similar to using straw. Again, it will suppress weeds and help conserve some water. But it provides little benefit when decomposing in the soil. You should never use bark or wood shavings from a walnut tree. Walnuts release growth inhibiting chemicals into the soil.
Covering your garden with weed fabrics is probably the best for reducing and stopping weeds in your garden. However, they don't provide much else. They are usually dark colors that will absorb heat. So, unless another mulch is added on top, they are prone to breaking down quickly in the sun. Weed fabrics won't provide any beneficial nutrients to the soil as they break down.
If you are looking for the best of the best, we recommend using alfalfa hay as your garden mulch. A bale of alfalfa breaks apart into sheets very easily. This way you can spread the sections out like tiles. These alfalfa tiles will suppress weeds, conserve water, and cool the soil. The other great benefits to alfalfa are the micronutrients and beneficial hormones it will add to the soil. Alfalfa is a member of the Fabaceae or the Pea family. As it breaks down alfalfa adds many nutrients to the soil, along with a growth-stimulating hormone called triacontanol.
Summer mulches are meant to add fiber and diversity to the soil. Manure composts will add a lot of nutrition to the soil. However, adding them in the summer will create a lot of extra heat. This extra heat can very easily be too much for your veggies to handle. Save the manure composts for spring and fall.
Using mulch in your garden provides many benefits. If nothing else, use a mulch to help you suppress weeds, and you will spend less time weeding and more time enjoying your plants.