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The City of Portland, Oregon

Portland Water Bureau

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Prepare Summer Soils with a Mulch Blanket

Wheelbarrow next to a pile of mulch nuggets

Spring is in the air!  With summer just around the corner, it’s time to get your garden ready to survive (and thrive!) through the hot temperatures. Our Water Efficiency team are pros at helping you reduce outdoor water use while growing the garden of your dreams.

What is an easy and cost-effective way to prepare your garden for summer? Add mulch!

What is mulch?

Mulch is a protective layer of material that is spread over the soil’s surface. It can be organic, made from bark, wood chips, compost, and even aged manure. It can also be inorganic gravel or river rock.

Keep soil hydrated and stops weeds

Mulch significantly reduces the amount of evaporation taking place on the surface of the soil. With less evaporation, the soil can retain moisture longer. This means that plants will stay hydrated and you don’t have to water as often.

Mulch also prevents the surface of the soil from becoming compacted from water impact. Preventing soil compaction keeps your soil fluffy and able to absorb water to greater depths.

The benefits don’t stop there—mulch also prevents the growth of weeds. By blocking sunlight from reaching the soil, young weeds cannot receive enough light to produce the sugars they need to grow. Before using a chemical weed killer, try mulch.

Mulch does all of this while also encouraging strong plant root systems, keeping soil cool, improving soil structure and, in the case of compost mulch, adding nutrients. Not to mention, a layer of mulch on your garden just looks nice!

How much mulch should I use?

Spring is the perfect time to mulch your garden for maximum water conservation. Apply a layer of mulch onto the soil surface around your plants. A one- to two-inch layer is most effective with compost, leaves or sawdust. Two to four inches works best for bark or wood chips.

Learn more about saving water outdoors: