Tag Archives: Garden Mulch

Conserve Water by Improving Your Soil Quality

Garden Soil vs. Potting Soil

It’s hot in Utah, and very dry right now. You’ve probably heard our news stories about lakes and reservoirs already sitting at alarmingly low levels. Pineview Reservoir is currently registering 18 feet below normal for this time of year, and Lake Powell is hitting historic lows. KSL News interviewed Riley Olsen with Weber Basin who says: “We had a quite bad snowpack, it wasn’t historic lows, but it definitely wasn’t good.” Because of the poor snowpack, soil moisture levels are not good either. Olsen explains that “when that snow’s melting, it’s just going straight into the ground. Not much of the melt is making it to the reservoirs.” Olsen’s advice for Utahns is “do everything can to conserve every drop.”

Utah has promoted wise watering for years, but are you doing your part to slow the flow and save H2O? Long, deep watering cycles (not daily) are better for your plants and lawn and our waterways. Also, try to water before 10am so roots can absorb the water before the hot sun peaks. If you’re already doing this, what else can you do? Well, that’s where we come in. The right soil and some good mulch can make a world of difference.

Boost Soil and Use Mulch

High quality soil is imperative to water conservation. You don’t want irrigation water and what little rain we get to run off and not be absorbed into the places you want. Quality soil allows for this absorption, going deep into the ground where the roots are taking hold. Deeper roots mean healthier plants and less watering. Reducing soil erosion and lessening the need for pesticides and fertilizer are also benefits to using a rich, quality soil. Incorporate organic compost with a premium blend of products, such as alfalfa, grain by-products, straw, and compressed steer manure to boost poor quality native soils and promote better water retention by loosening compacted soils.

Another great water-wise landscaping technique is the proper use of mulch. Organic mulch aids in the reduction of evaporation around your flowers and plants. Boost this with a drip system and you’ll be able to sleep better at night knowing you’re maximizing efforts to conserve in our desert community. Not only is mulch a beautiful topper, but when you apply 3 to 4 inches in your beds or gardens, it will help keep out weeds and retain moisture for those thirsty plants.

Some other quick tips to being water wise are to fix any leaks you see quickly, stay on top of weeding so water doesn’t go to unnecessary plants, adjust your mower to a higher setting to shade your grass and promote a deeper root system, and even wash your dog outside and close to flowers or an area that’s dry in your lawn—your dog will love the cool water during the summer, too.

Being water wise doesn’t mean you need to xeriscape your entire yard. With a few smart switches, you can have a beautiful, green, water wise yard all summer long. At The Dirt Bag, we sell the highest quality soil prep, organic composts, and mulch options to maximize your conservation efforts.

Using Leaves for Mulch

Fall Leaves for Mulch
Fall Leaves for Mulch

Fall is in the air and with it comes new seasonal tasks, such as raking up leaves and collecting fallen fruit from the summer harvest. Leaves can be a fantastic form of mulch, but it’s not quite as easy as simply letting them sit where they fall. A lot of people think of raking leaves as a chore and a nuisance, but in reality, dead leaves are a fantastic mulch source. Fallen leaves are readily available, free, and renewable making them absolute “garden gold.” 

Mulch, by definition, is a suitable material put on top of soil to help maximize its environment. Mulch is also often thought of as a landscaping detail to add beauty to your yard. There are all kinds of mulch, with high-quality mulch available from trusted sources like The Dirt Bag. Mulch can be made up of a variety of things, but leaf mulch is exactly what it sounds like—no added ingredients here. As leaves decompose, it enhances the fertility of the soil and optimizes organic content. Leaves decompose quickly, so you don’t have to wait long for the benefits.

What to Know About Leaf Mulch

Many avid gardeners spend plenty of time (and money!) amending their soil, and leaf mulch can be a free way to speed up this process. When you use what nature has already given you for soil additives, you’re already a step ahead. Leaf mulch can renew plants, but there is truth to the idea of too much of a good thing. Leaf mulch in a layer no more than one inch thick on targeted soil can moderate soil temperatures as we prep for the winter months. This protects the plants and minimizes your need for additional fertilizing at the moment. 

Leaves are also great at keeping weeds in check so you won’t need to spend as much time weeding. Soil erosion can also be reduced with proper use of leaf mulch. However, all of these benefits require more than simply transferring leaves from beneath the trees to your targeted soil. The best way to use leaf mulch is to shred it, usually by allowing the leaves to dry first. Dried leaves can be ran over with a lawnmower for easy shredding. Leaves that are dry tend to break down quicker and are easier to shed, but wet leaves are also beneficial to the soil (albeit tougher to work with).

Working with Leaves

When working with dry leaves, spread them 3 – 4 inches away from shrubs and trees and 2 – 3 inches away from perennial beds. They can be used as insulation for roses as long as you remove them before spring growth begins. Add leaf litter to veggie beds to instill nutrients to the soil, prioritizing smaller shreds when possible. 

Alternatively, you can also use leaves and fallen fruits as compost. Simply place these items in a pile that will occasionally get wet. This pile should be left alone for two years before it becomes fantastic compost for flower beds. Ready for more tips on autumn composting and mulching? Get in touch with The Dirt Bag today!

Match Your Mulch to Your Garden Goals

The Dirt Bag The Mulch for your Garden

At The Dirt Bag, one of the most common questions we get is what type of mulch is best. There’s no single answer because it completely depends on your gardening goals. You need mulch in your garden because the right mulch helps you save water, fight weeds, and keep pests at bay. This means healthier veggies, fruits, and flowers. Some mulch is designed for specific crops, but let’s start with the basics. There are two primary types of mulch: organic and inorganic. Organic is comprised of what used to be living things like straw, wood chips, pine needles, and so on. Inorganic mulch is man-made like plastic and landscape fabric strips.

Organic and inorganic mulch both minimize weeds, but organic mulch nourishes the soil at the same time. Inorganic mulch isn’t meant to break down, so they don’t enrich the soil, but it can still be the right mulch for you. For example, black plastic is a common inorganic mulch that keeps the soil warm even at night so veggies that love the heat, like cherry tomatoes, thrive with this type of mulch.

Mulch Matching

One of the most well-known types of mulch is shredded bark or wood chips. It looks pretty, but reserve this type of mulch for bordering shrubs, making pathways, or for perennial flower beds, Vegetables, and annual flowers aren’t the best mates for bark chips because it’s tough to tend a garden when you have to dig past big chunks of bark. Grass clippings are another popular item, and you can harvest your own every time you mow. They are good for lawn fertilizer and to use in veggie gardens that require more nitrogen.

Compost can be a great way to enrich the soil, but the compost needs to be damp. Too much dry mulch isn’t good for plant roots. The best way to use compost is to spread a thin layer on top of other mulch and around your plants. This will help your compost retain moisture and stay biologically active to optimize flower, fruit, and vegetable growth. You can also use straw or hay, especially for veggie gardens. Weed-free hay and salt hay are good picks for not only looking beautiful but also helping to prevent weeds, keep in moisture, and get an extra dose of organic matter as it breaks down. Keep it away from any stems of fruit trees or vegetables, otherwise, rodents and slugs might get attracted to it.

Finally, there’s a plastic mulch. Put the plastic over smooth soil to make your own microclimate that stays three degrees warmer than it would otherwise. You can safeguard your crops, stop rotting, and keep weeds in check. There are a few different types of plastic mulching, including infrared-transmitting plastics that are costlier but offer even better results. To learn more about mulching options and to get your gardening goals achieved more quickly, contact The Dirt Bag today for a customized action plan.

Mulch Now to Decrease Yard Work

Garden Mulch
Garden Mulch For Less Work

Right now is the perfect time to take care of annual mulching. Early birds are rewarded with less yard work in the summer and autumn. However, only a good mulch—whether you choose organic or inorganic—is going to do the trick. Mulching leads to efficiency because good mulch dramatically reduces weed growth while helping to retain moisture during drier months. A great mulch buffers changes in soil temperatures and helps areas that are difficult to irrigate or mow. Of course, many gardeners choose to add mulch just because of the aesthetics. Whether you’re interested in mulching to reduce erosion, optimize soil characteristics, or a combination of perks, now is the time to act.

The mulch you had during the winter helped to keep roots and soil warm. Come summer, it will do the same to keep soil cooler. Mulch helps you out because a good layer of quality mulch means you won’t have to weed, use trimmers, or mow in these areas as often. This in turn means less risk of plant damage and disease. String-trimmer damage can be severe, and it doesn’t take much to over-trim with these hand-held devices. Trimmers can also whisk away bark layers. Once protective layers are gone, plants need ample time to heal. Mulch minimizes this damage.

Choosing the Right Mulch

You can choose organic or inorganic mulch. Organic mulch decomposes slowly and improves soil aeration, drainage, and fertility. Inorganic mulches don’t offer those benefits because they don’t decompose; however, this also means they don’t need to be refreshed as often. Many gardeners think “organic mulch” when they think about mulch, and this can be a great choice for many people.

Pine bark mulch is popular, readily available, and it’s a renewable forest industry byproduct. You can choose from various particle sizes, and the natural brown color is appealing in any garden. Pine straw is also popular and available in bales. As an added bonus, pine straw binds together so it doesn’t wash away as easily as many other organic mulches. There’s also shredded wood that can be sourced from a variety of options including mixed hardwood and recycled pallets. 

Getting Mulch Creative

You can supplement your organic mulch with what you’re already creating in your yard, such as leaf litter and lawn clippings. Lose the bag option on your lawnmower and instead make use of the “debris” by using it as mulch. However, keep in mind this kind of mulch decomposes very quickly so it’s best used as a supplement to purchased mulch that’s packed with nutrients for a happy, healthy lawn.