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Use Mulch for Healthier Plants in Fall

South Texas is generally still hot and dry in September so we need options to reduce water loss and encourage root growth. Mulch fulfills these needs wonderfully.

There are two times a year we urge homeowners to add mulch to beds and trees — May and September. You can always add mulch to the landscape, but adding it during these months maximizes the benefits.

Mulch can be organic or inorganic. Organic mulch includes woodchips, pine bark, pecan shells and leaves, i.e. anything with carbon. Inorganic includes decomposed granite, rocks of all sizes and black plastic. The main benefits for both are reduced soil moisture loss, reduced plant competition and reduced soil temperature.

Because organic mulches have the added benefits of increasing water-holding capacity, water infiltration, macro and micro-organism interaction, and soil structure, we encourage the use of organic rather than inorganic mulches.

Regardless of choice though, late spring and early fall are excellent times to replenish mulch. South Texas is generally still hot and dry in September so we need options to reduce water loss and encourage root growth, which assists plants with their drought tolerance and nutrient absorption. Mulch fulfills these needs wonderfully. Even very small amounts, one inch or so, of woodchips or decomposed granite significantly reduce soil temperatures. This limits moisture loss and encourages root growth.

If you want healthier plants throughout the fall, winter and spring then mulch! How about the idea of heathier plants throughout the summer with minimal irrigation? Mulch is the answer. Garden experts stress three things for the landscape: compost, compost and compost. Let me add and double down: mulch, mulch and mulch over that compost.

Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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