Dry, hot East Texas weather can be devastating to vegetable and flower gardens. To give them a fighting chance, gather organic materials to use as a protective mulch. Pine needles, bark, leaves, hay, grass clippings, or compost are excellent mulches and are available at little or no cost. Layer mulch two to four inches deep around plants and replenish as needed to maintain that depth of cover. Avoid covering the crown or base of plants with mulch material.
Inorganic mulches are also available; options include gravel, water- and air-permeable weed barrier or other roll-type materials. Roll-type mulches should overlap in order to prevent weeds from growing between the sheets of fabric.
Cover dark fabric with bark or other materials to prevent heat build-up during the summer months.
Advantages of using mulch in the garden include:
- Moderating soil temperature changes during hot and cold weather;
- Reducing soil compaction and erosion from hard rains;
- Helping control weed growth;
- Preventing dirt from splashing up on foliage;
- Improving the quality of produce by keeping it off the ground.
Linda Brumitt, former Smith County Master Gardener
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service