Mulching..... Water concern?

bob_in_coloradoJuly 11, 2014

I'm considering mulching my vegetable gardens. I've read and read about the benefits of mulching in the vege garden. Cooler soil temps, weed control, less watering, etc. I'm a big fan of all those.

My dilemma is this...... To prevent weeds effectively, mulch depth should be 3". 2" absolute minimum. I'm considering an untreated western red cedar. I like the look, the way it interlocks and resists wind and slowly adds to the soil be decomposing. It's easy to move for future planting and is durable.

My concern is this... Doesn't a layer of mulch that thick absorb water meaning my overhead irrigation system would have to run longer to penetrate the soil sufficiently?

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!

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david52 Zone 6

It might well do so - but once the soil under the mulch is moist, it stays moist for a long time - like weeks - and your over-all water consumption should go down considerably.

I mulch my veggies with 3-4 " of grass clippings and the flower beds with 3-4" of bark. Water the veggies every 7-10 days and the flowers every 2 weeks.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 1:51AM
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David do you let your clippings dry out first?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 5:36PM
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Something coarse like bark mulch does not absorb a huge amount of water to begin with. It won't take that long for water to soak it and penetrate the soil below - it's not like penetrating 2-3" of garden soil which is extremely absorbent.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 5:39PM
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david52 Zone 6

Bob_In_Colorado (My Page) on Sat, Jul 12, 14 at 17:36
David do you let your clippings dry out first?

I use fresh and dried and 'forgotten 3 days and started-to-ferment' grass clippings - the fresh are the easiest and most pleasant to spread. They dry pretty quickly once they're spread as mulch.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2014 at 10:40AM
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I use untreated western red cedar in all of my beds. Keep it a couple of inches away from the base of the plant; the water will easily get in right where you want it to and you won't have the issues that come with wet wood snuggling up to greenery. I'm sure 2" would be plenty, especially with cedar since it mats so well.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:57PM
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mayberrygardener(z5a, Broomfield, CO)

I second what amester said--make sure to give your veggie plants a few inches where the mulch is pulled back, and you should be fine. Ideally, you might consider switching to a drip irrigation under the mulch if you like how it works for you.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:57PM
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We use shredded leaves, and lots of them. To them we add fresh grass clippings on top, which dry out very quickly. Then in the fall we add more leaves and till everything in, along with llama poo.

Keeps the soil cooler and almost always moist. With our weird weather this year, I've watered the tomatoes twice this summer - so far.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:32PM
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