Garden Mulch To Reduce Summer Watering

July in my garden means lots of color, and flowers that attract hummingbirds are an added bonus. I always like to have some large planters and several years ago purchased some wrought iron plant stands that were specially made for a large nursery pot to sit in the top. I planted the pots in late April with 4” pot size plants and am now reaping the rewards.

Begonia Bonfire Bacopa - Mike Darcy

My plants of choice for the past few summers, and I always have at least one pot with this combination, is Begonia ‘Bonfire’ and white bacopa (Sutera cordata). I place the begonia plants in the center of the pot and the bacopa around the rim. The begonias tend to grow upward and then flop while the bacopa trails over the sides and by mid July has covered the outside of the pot with a mass of white flowers. The begonias have been in bloom since the time they were planted and are hummingbird magnets.

Black Gold Waterhold Cocoblend Potting Soil is ideal to use in pots like these that are exposed to the elements, as the coconut fibers have great water holding capabilities and this makes the pots less likely to dry out on a hot day. It also reduces the amount of water needed in each pot and I have found that what once was a daily water requirement, I can often go two or three days between watering.

In earlier articles, I have mentioned the importance of a garden mulch and that I used Black Gold Soil Conditioner when planting new plants. The positive effect of using this product earlier in the season is paying benefits now. As summer has arrived and we are having warmer weather and few rainy days, the soil is beginning to become dry and many plants need supplemental water. The use of Black Gold Garden Compost Blend has helped retain moisture in the soil and less water is required than if it had not been used.

Even though it is July, it is not too late to apply Black Gold Soil Conditioner to the soil around established plants. I like to mix it in with the existing soil and I will gently cultivate it into the first 2-3 inches of soil and then water. Some plants tend to need more water than others and here is where Black Gold Just Coir can be used. This product is actually coconut coir pith and its’ water holding capacities are amazing. Working Black Gold Just Coir into the top few inches around plants that like some extra moisture can be a huge benefit.

Three plants I have found that will greatly benefit from the use of Black Gold Just Coir mulch are Gunnera, Hosta, and Hydrangea. My experience has been that all three of these plants tend to like a moist soil environment. Gardeners grow hosta primarily for their foliage and having sun burned crisp foliage tends to ruin the appearance of the plant. While there are some hostas that will tolerate more sun than others, I have found that regardless of their exposure, they tend to benefit from a moist, well drained soil.

Hydragea Lime Light - Mike Darcy

Gunnera, some garden centers will label this as “Dinosaur Food” since it is a plant left over from pre-historic times, can be a wonderful focal feature in a garden. Gunnera is known for its huge leaves that often measure over three feet across appearing on long stalks that can be eight feet in height and with features like this it is definitely a conversation plant. Gunnera likes moisture and fertilizer and plants are often seen growing near ponds and on banks of streams. The plants do not like to be in standing water but like their roots to be moist. Using Black Gold Just Coir can help to hold moisture and Black Gold All Purpose Potting Mix is a good natural fertilizer which I apply three times a year on my Gunnera.

Hydrangeas are such magnificent summer blooming shrubs that I cannot imagine my garden without some.  One of my favorites is “Limelight” and now in mid-July my plants are just coming into flower. While I have seen Hydrangeas planted in full sun, I have found they do much better with some protection from the hot afternoon sun. They also like moisture around the base and Black Gold Just Coir is ideal.

Summer is here and we should enjoy it and our garden and the less maintenance we have, the better.  Watering plants on hot days can be time consuming and with the addition of some soil mulch amendments around plants, we can spend less time in maintaining and more time enjoying.

About Mike Darcy

Mike lives and gardens in a suburb of Portland, Oregon where he has resided since 1969. He grew in up Tucson, Arizona where he worked at a small retail nursery during his high school and college years. He received his formal education at the University of Arizona where he was awarded a Bachelor of Science Degree in Horticulture, and though he values his formal education, he values his field-experience more. It is hard to beat the ‘hands on’ experience of actually gardening, visiting gardens, and sharing information with other gardeners. Mike has been involved with gardening communications throughout his adult life. In addition to garden writing, he has done television gardening shows in Portland, and for over 30 years he hosted a Saturday radio talk show in Portland. Now he writes, speaks, gardens and continues to share his love of gardening. To be connected to the gardening industry is a bonus in life for Mike. He has found gardeners to be among the friendliest and most caring, generous people. Consequently, many of his friends he has met through gardening.

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