Thursday, July 16, 2015

Simple Suggestion # 237... Water less, mulch more

The south side of our house is our yard's hot spot, ridiculously hot in the summer. It's got its own micro climate, situated in the fifteen or so feet between two bungalows and with a rock path where we dug a channel to funnel water away from the foundations. With the sun beating on the side of our house, the temperatures can reach the 40's C (100's F) when really, they're in the high 20's and low 30's (80's-90's). In spite of that, in the soil along our foundation I continue to plant nasturtiums every year because their bright flower faces make me happy -- and they're tasty in salads, too.

Of course, yard hot spots require a fair bit of water, especially in the near-drought conditions in Alberta this summer. I've been running along the south side of our house with my watering can almost daily, ensuring that the nasturtiums have enough to drink. But today's a cooler day, so I took a little time to reduce my watering efforts by adding more mulch to the nasturtium beds.

The nasturtiums below are pretty happy -- when I planted them back in May, there was a layer of leaves on top of their bed that got mixed into the soil.

But their friends to the west didn't have that luxury as the wind blows everything into the east corner and sweeps the west bed clean, leaving bare soil. These plants are smaller, and a bit sunburnt.

What I really should have done was dig some leaves into all the soil before I planted. Note to self: do that in the fall. For now, though, I added some damp and matted leaves around all these plants as I still have bags of them from last fall for use in my compost pile.

Here are the beds, happily mulched.

Watering efforts won't be so frequent now, and I'm betting the slightly sunburnt look of the west bed will dissipate over time. Mulching gives soil and plant roots protection from the sun, adds organic matter for the plants to absorb, makes it harder for weeds to take root, and prevents moisture from evaporating as quickly.

All of these are reasons my city is presently pushing a grasscycling campaign -- if people leave grass clippings on their lawns rather than bagging them up and sending them to the landfill, they're effectively applying a layer of moisture-retaining, nitrogen rich mulch that will improve the health of their grass (and the city won't have to spend so much effort taking hundreds of thousands of bags to the composting facility). Here's a recent video of our mayor promoting grasscycling. I love that he doesn't take himself too seriously and can ham it up for a good cause!

Mulch can be made of almost anything organic -- even weeds (stripped of their seed heads) can be placed around plants to hold in the soil's moisture. Sometimes, as I weed, I leave the unwanted seedless plants on the soil to mulch and give added nutrients.

Do you have any yard hot spots? If so, mulching can cool them down, cut weeds, and save water. I'll post pictures from these efforts later in the summer, so you can see what I mean...

Happy mulching!

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