Help Plants Beat the Heat With Mulch

Hot weather can be as hard on plants as it is on people.

Staying hydrated is as critical to our plants as it is to us.  Of course, we don't want to use any more water than is necessary in the process.  That's why adding mulch to beds is one of the best ways to help plants stay perky in the heat.


Adding mulch is a sustainable step that is scientifically proven to save water.  In everyday terms, a layer of mulch helps plants retain moisture in the root zone and it slows evaporation.


And there are other benefits.  Mulch helps to control weeds.  When you buy locally produced mulch products, you're upping the sustainability factor even more.
What are the options?
To select the best mulch for your property, consider a variety of factors.  Do you have dogs?  Do you live in a windy area?  Do you want the lowest maintenance option for the long term--or the most "green" option available?  Property conditions and personal preferences will determine the best mulch for your situation.
Here are a variety of mulch options and some of the pros and cons of each:

  • Grass clippings are one of the most sustainable mulches available because you recycle them right back into the property where they grew.  With a mulching lawn mower, clippings stay on the lawn and that really helps hold in moisture.  When clippings decompose, they also add nutrients that are good for the grass.  If you don't have a mulching mower, rake or bag the clippings and put them around veggies.  You'll be amazed how grass mulch helps hold in moisture--and also how it controls weeds!
  • Rock is the most durable mulch and it won't blow away.  It's excellent for rock gardens.  On the down side, it heats up and consequently, is not as effective as other options to moderate conditions around plants.  If you have a dog that likes to chew rocks, the small river rock variety is not a good choice.  Use larger cobble that's about the size of a baked potato.
  • Bark chip mulch is cooler than rock but does have to be replaced every year or two depending on the size of the chips. This mulch may not the most "green" choice unless you get a locally recycled product.  It can blow away in high wind areas.
  • Gorilla hair is a woven, textured product that is great for high wind areas and it will also decompose over time.  The down side is that it's difficult to clean and may need to be flipped over to keep a neat appearance.
  • Aspen fines not only offer a well-dressed look around plants, but they are a local, recycled product.  Because they break down quickly, they need to be replaced often.
  • Dyed mulch can be among the least desirable of all the mulches because of its bright color and the dyes that make it less "green" than other choices.  If you like the color, ask how the mulch has been dyed.  Mulches dyed with clay-based paints won't be harmful to the environment.  Colors can fade in Colorado's intense sun.
  • Soil Pep is dark, black garden mulch that offers an attractive and elegant look around annuals and perennials.  Because it is comprised of organic material, it is similar to compost but not as fine textured.  It is top choice of many gardeners because, like compost, it helps improve soil quality.  This product is not as long-lasting as other mulches; it needs to be replaced at least once a year to maintain its characteristic elegant look.


Source: Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado 2011

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