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Mulching Police on Patrol!

May 25th, 2011

Fine Mulch

Coarse Mulch

To mulch or not to mulch?  That is the question!  Mulching is great for your garden and believe it or not, it’s actually required by law.  Don’t worry – if you do not mulch you will not be taken to “non-mulchers” jail or even fined, but mulching is an important part of water conservation and is included in the 1990 Water Conservation in Landscaping Act (AB325). This act was designed to encourage backyard gardeners to abide by seven basic principles of water conservation, one of which is mulching.

Mulch is defined as any material applied to the surface of the soil to improve the texture. Mulching reduces water evaporation from soil by 50 percent, thus reducing the need to frequently water. It also protects soil from erosion, suppresses weeds by 2/3 by blocking them from sunlight and inhibiting their ability to grow, and also serves as a soil conditioner. Earthworms, which aerate the soil and leave castings (worm poop) that act as a high-quality fertilizer, are also very much attracted to mulch.

Mulching also reduces crusting and soil compaction (that’s when the soil dries out and cracks). It does this by lowering the soil temperature by almost 10 degrees. In the winter it can have the opposite effect by contributing to warming of the soil, protecting it from those frosty winter evenings.

Mulch is usually applied to vegetable gardens once the soil has warmed up; around spring time or a little later. The coarser the material the deeper the mulch should go. The California Master Gardener’s Handbook suggests the mulch depth should be around 1-3 inches for finer materials, such as sawdust and grass clippings, and for coarser materials, like bark or straw or even shredded plant matter, use 3-6 inches. But be careful not to put mulch too close to the stem of plants or the trunks of trees as it may retain too much water and have damaging effects on the plant, like crown rot.

Thank you Shirley Porter, Nevada County Master Gardener, for providing us with this information from The Curious Gardener newsletter published by Nevada and Placer County UC Cooperative Extension.  Their website is filled with great information, classes and events.  Check it out here!

Example of Mulching Several Inches From Tree Trunk


New Developments in our Sustainable Gardening Practices

August 20th, 2010

Have you seen the progress of the new winery, brewery and food processing facility on the north side of our garden?  This month the doors will open to a state-of-the art LEED platinum designed facility housing the Anheuser-Busch Brewing and Food Science Laboratory as well a teaching and research winery. 

If you have driven past the campus along 80 West or East, you may have looked over and seen these beautiful silos.  (See photo below.)  They are not for grain storage; these are rain water collection tanks! The rainwater collected here will be used to water the drought-tolerant landscape immediately surrounding this new facility in addition its use in the buildings’ toilets!

Just north of the UC Davis Good Life Garden, these four rainwater collection tanks will soon provide irrigation to our edible landscape.

The UC Davis Good Life Garden is not currently part of this sustainable irrigation system, but will be soon according to director of grounds and landscape services, Sal Genito, who plans to tie the garden to the same system in the coming year.

We’ll keep you updated on our progress.  In the meantime, if you come to the UC Davis Good Life Garden and notice the pinkish/purple irrigation control lids near the new facility, you’ll know that the water from this source is actually ‘green’ in the sustainable sense because it comes directly from the rainwater collection tanks pictured above.  (See photo below.)

As irony would have it, the water from our own campus utility water system is managed under the ‘green’ irrigation control lids.  (See photo below.)

Do you use a rainwater collection system for your landscape or edible garden? Tell us about it!


Beautiful gardens, less water

August 13th, 2009

We love the Sacramento Master Gardeners’ website; especially the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center’s water-efficient landscape garden. Check out photos of the beautiful space that incorporates not only water-efficient plants, but also drip irrigation, swales to capture water, and permeable concrete walks and patios.

The Horticulture Center has two more workshops this year – including one about composting and an open garden day that will also include information about water conservation. Check the schedule here.

The website also has an extensive list of garden-related sites. A great resource!