Summer Heat in Victoria, BC

Now that we are all enjoying this summer heatwave in Victoria, BC, you have to ask yourself what happens in the garden when weather occurrences like this take place? Plants and trees feel the heat just as we do, if there is wind it makes them even thirstier

How to Help Plants Stay Hydrated

Studies show that when you mulch the soil 6” to 36” deep it helps retain moisture. This is really good news since most of the delicate feeder roots are found at this level. Mulch also provides even temperatures in the soil, which helps those micro-organisms to keep on working below the soil surface.

How Does Soil Compaction Happen

When the “air pockets” that exist in the soil don’t get filled with water on a consistent basis, they collapse or become smaller. When this happens you start to get compaction in the soil. This change in the soil structure is almost impossible to reverse, and its effect on your garden is really detrimental.

Use Mulch to Keep Plants Hydrated
Mulch starts to decompose on the top layer of your garden beds, and this process creates movement underneath. Earthworms come up to the surface and pull decomposing matter down, creating natural aeration. This feeds the soil at the bottom layers of your garden beds without digging an inch! Mulching your garden beds is great for weed suppression, but it does so much more.

So, what are some kinds of mulch?

Types of Mulch
Mulches can be river rock or smaller rock, sawdust, compost, bark mulch, landscape cloth, sea soil, straw, newspaper, and leaf mulch.

Compost, black earth, and leaf mulch are the best because you are feeding the soil as well as conserving water and avoiding compaction.

If you are using sawdust for acid-loving plants such as blueberries, heathers, azaleas and rhododendrons, it is really important that the sawdust comes from untreated wood products.

Sea soil/fish soil is beautiful and black but can be very strong for some plants. I prefer to mix it with garden compost 50/50 to avoid burning.

If you want to get a nice black mulch that is balanced, here are a few of my recommendations:

Rapid Grow Landscape, Rapid Grow Composted Manure and Rapid Grow Enriched Black Earth
  • Ready-to-use blend of compost, manure and sustainable Canadian sphagnum peat moss
  • Rich in organic matter that improves the soil’s structure, moisture retention and the activity of micro-organisms
  • All-purpose growing media to use for trees, shrubs and flowers planted directly in the ground
  • Less watering
  • Stronger plants
  • More abundant flowering
  • Better growth, enriched with compost

Organic Biomax 3-in-1
Biomax contains a blend of 1/3 compost (forestry compost), 1/3 black earth (humus) and 1/3 Canadian sphagnum peat moss. These ingredients are combined with horticultural limestone to adjust pH into a desirable range. The result is a homogenous and complete blend consisting of rich organic matter which encourages microbial activity and a natural soil conditioner which improves water-holding and aeration. Biomax garden mix favours the development of root systems and the establishment of newly transplanted flowers, vegetables, shrubs, etc. Your benefit is reduced plant losses and improved gardening success.

The benefist of Biomax include:

  • Completely ready to use
  • No need for additional products at planting
  • Rich in organic matter
  • Improves biological activity of soil
  • High water-holding capacity
  • Reduces watering frequency
  • Natural product
  • Ideal for vegetable gardening
  • Multi use
  • Compatible with many plant types and species
  • Use for trees, shrubs, roses, vegetable garden, lawns, annuals, flower beds, patio containers, planters, perennials, and bulbs

Manure for Insulation
Straw manure provides great insulation and is great for over wintering mulch, as well as pathways. Horse manure is good as the grass component is broken down so the nutrients are more easily accessible. If the manure is not properly composted you can burn your garden and/or germinate grass seed in your flower beds.

Using Cardboard in Your Garden
Cardboard or newspaper is one of my favourites! Lay newspaper down over your soil (cut out where your plants are or lay newspapers so that the planting hole is exposed) and cover with compost. This technique is especially good for clematis vines.

Landscape Cloth Mulch
Landscape cloth is a mulch that creates several problems while not really solving any. It creates a barrier allowing water to sit around the roots of plants, which causes rot or air pockets. The weed seeds that are beneath the fabric for the first year are definitely blocked out, but in year 2 the weed seeds take root on top of the fabric which defeats the purpose. Noxious weeds like Himalayan blackberry, morning glory and ivy that put out runners are encouraged with landscape fabric over soil because it enables them to travel faster under the fabric. The last and probably the most important reason why landscape fabric is not the best for the garden is that as it breaks down it releases toxins into your soil that kill important bacteria. Think of it like what happens to your body when you take antibiotics. I have personally experienced removing cloth and lifting big sheets of it to find soil that is in such bad shape that nothing could grow in it!

Bark Mulch for Tree Protection
Bark mulch is on trees to protect the inner part of the tree where all the important mechanisms are – kind of like our rib cage protects our organs. Bark does an amazing job of warding off insects, fungi, moulds and harmful bacteria. Somewhere we decided to grind it up and put it on our flower beds to make things look pretty and supress weeds. We missed the part about feeding the soil. Bark mulch actually hurts the soil when it decomposes in many ways, and you end up with a soil that is nutrient-deficient with low counts of micro-organisms. Seems counterproductive, don’t you think?

Compost and black rich soils are the very best to mulch with in most applications. Feed the soil, supress the weeds, avoid compaction and save water in your garden.

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