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How mulch helps save water

How mulch helps save water


(Photo Source: Flickr // Jessica Cross)

Auburn, Alabama — With Alabama in its current drought, residences throughout the state can mulch to help save water in their yards and gardens.

Rhonda Britton, a regional Extension agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests, said mulch helps save water by holding moisture when placed on top of the soil.

“It keeps down erosion and helps hold the moisture in,” Britton said. “It basically seals the soil or works as a barrier to help the moisture from evaporating out of the soil.”

Types of mulch

The most accessible type of mulch in Alabama is pine bark due to the numerous pulp mills throughout the state.

However, there are multiple types mulch including:

  • Pine bark mulch
  • Hardwood mulch
  • Pine straw mulch
  • Cyprus mulch
  • Red mulch
  • Synthetic mulch

Beyond these standard purchases, Britton said residents can add household compost to their mulch including newspaper, leaf straw and cardboard.

“Any of your grass clippings or rotten plants and vegetables that people did not pick in time can also be added to their compost,” Britton said. “When those all set over time, the mulch breaks down into a good composting soil, holding in moisture and fighting weed seeds.”

Mulching in the drought

With the state in a current drought, any small practice to save water should be incorporated into people’s home landscaping. Britton said people should absolutely include mulching in their gardens and yards.

“If you mulch around your landscape, it serves a dual purpose — it helps keep weeds from germinating and helps hold soil moisture,” Britton said. “In this drought, most people are sublimating the water so if you have mulch around the plants you can water your plants less frequently because it wont evaporate as fast.”

Other benefits of mulch

Beyond saving water, there are other important benefits to mulching yards and plants.Britton recommends at least a 3-inch layer of mulch so that it continues to work over time.

“Mulch will break down over time and help add organic matter to your plants, while also fighting weed seeds from germinating,” Britton said.  “It helps protect the plants at the base of the plant.”

Residents should also spread the mulch out evenly across the base of the plant.

“You don’t want to mulch up around the trunk of the tree,” Britton said. “This is known as the volcano effect and should be avoided by making sure the mulch is evenly spread.”


For more information on mulching practices, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension agent for assistance in the field.


Featured photo by Ozgur Coskun at Shutterstock.com

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