What is the Best Mulch in Drought Conditions?


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Are all mulches created equal? I use cedar mulch for insect control, and I have rock mulch for decoration. I have a compost mulch made from prunings around the house. With the water restrictions in place, I noticed something about my mulches.

rock mulchI interacted with a group of real estate agents who were criticizing a green building technique as horrible. They thought it was new, and they did not understand it, so they dismissed it. The fact was that the technique is millennia old. I know fellow home inspectors who also do not give credence to what they see as fringe building techniques. I came to realize that there are old solutions to current problems, yet we go along blind to them. With the water restrictions in place, I hear people discussing ways to keep their gardens alive. I have used the condensate water from my air conditioning system for quite some time to water my garden beds, yet others are discussing this as a new concept. We are paying attention more to which plants can handle the heat and lack of water (my poor azaleas do not fare well), yet focusing on native plants or appropriate plants for a certain area has also long been part of the gardener’s repertoire. The one thing we do not seem to be including in our discussions is how have we farmed deserts in the past. Humans have farmed dry conditions previously, so there must be some solutions. Could these fixes revolve around mulch?
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Dealing with a Drought in Your Garden


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When is the last time you had rain? Parts of the country are experiencing flooding, and in Houston, we are dealing with higher than normal temperatures coupled with no rain.

My last water bill was quite high. My goal is to reduce my water consumption, so I was not too happy with my behavior that led to this unwanted expense. In my mind, I was justifying my actions with the fact that food prices are rising, and I am growing vegetables to counter those prices (a note in the grocery store today pointed out that many crops have been damaged by the weather, so prices will fluctuate). I was also thinking of my foundation. Keeping the ground at a consistent moisture level will help the house. However, this bill brought my focus back to my goal. Yes, I could justify my actions, but I could not really. I, like all of my neighbors, will have to make choices to deal with the drought.
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Holding Patterns: Cleaning up and moving things around the yard.


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Not much is happening, so I am still in preparation mode for the new planting season.

We needed the rain. I am glad for the sun. A visitor from Germany reminded me how lucky we are in Houston during the winter months. There is an unease in my bones though. In Chicago as a lad, I could not do anything here in the garden, so I played in the snow. With our weather, I can still enjoy the flowers, but there is not much that I can do that will not succumb to frost. I decided to have everything ready to go, where I could simple set the plants or seeds into the ground, so my task began.
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Preparing the Garden for a Houston Winter


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My daughter is telling me that the trees are ready to take a nap. The leaves are falling. She is also ready for the snow, but our winters are relatively mild in Houston, so I am not sure that we will see any snow this year. I do wish to have the garden ready for the winter months though.

I sweep each morning, or so it seems. Sweeping is a restful exercise, and the one year old loves to help. She has her own broom, and she pulls out a tub into which I place my leaves. What to do with the leaves becomes a question. I am beginning new compost piles, and I began to prepare my garden for winter by using the leaves as mulch. With the leaves falling, I began to think about other ways to have my garden ready for winter.
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Having a Problem Keeping a Stretch of Yard Look Neat? Mulch It.


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The fall planting season will be fast upon us, so I am preparing my garden. One step is getting rid of future work by mulching a path.

My daughters love buying seeds, and I obliged by taking them on a quest. The quest has involved going to several stores. I have been buying a few older plants that are now on sale. I found that caring for these plants carefully, I can have it for the next year. I noticed that the nurseries had new vegetables in stock. Mainly tomato or pepper plants, which I already have. There are cabbages and various brassicas on hand. This reminded me that fall is not too far away. I have a tendency to let my garden evolve into a wonderful chaos, then I clear sections for the new plants. One job that is constant is the weeding. I do not mind this task too much, but I do want to decrease the amount of work needed. This is where mulching helps.
    I have a side yard dedicated to vegetables.  The path has been grass with paving stones. Different types of grasses invaded with other plants, and I had a harder time making this path look clean. I may enjoy the chaos in the bed, not on the path. The invaders on the path began to find their way into my garden beds. I do not mind working, but a pointless task becomes tiresome. With trouble  on this path, I thought about my options. Mulching over the area, and then placing the pavers even with the mulch will help keep the area clean and reduce my weeding.
   I decided upon a cedar mulch. The scent of the cedar deters insects from the garden. Have you ever put cedar pieces to keep moths out of your closets? Those moths are laying their eggs on my vegetables for their young to have food. On other garden paths, rocks were used as a mulch. This gives a crunching sound underfoot. The advantage to rocks is that they do not float away. I know that there is no float mulch, which do work, but these mulches do need to be renewed each year. Rocks do not have this problem.

   Considering Houston’s long growing season, I am trying out broccoli rapini. This should be planted in spring. My pepper plants are healthy, so I am waiting for a good harvest in October. The okra is producing more as well. I also planted tomatillos. Once established, these plants can be carefree. My dog mowed down my last tomatillo stand, so the new plants are out of his reach. I cannot wait for the bok choy.

Greetings

This site came out of my desire to write about my love of gardening, but also to connect it to my knowledge derived from home inspections. That is why I tied it to the home inspection site.If you have questions, you can email them to me (frank at yourhoustonhomeinspector.com). For home inspections, call 713.781.6090.
Happy gardening, Frank

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