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Janet Laminack: Mulch helps lock in what plants need

It may be football season, but summer doesn’t seem to be over yet. Our landscapes are still battling high temperatures and low rainfall.

This time of year we certainly see all kinds of plant problems that could be caused by heat or water, or maybe insects or disease, or maybe it’s all of the above. Rather than using a reactive approach to each garden calamity, let’s reduce the stress our plants experience and promote health. One of the best things we can do to improve the living conditions of plants and trees is to use mulch.

Mulch refers to any type of material that is used as a layer of insulation on the soil. Mulch can be made of inorganic materials such as gravel, plastic or shredded tires. Mulch is also made of organic materials such as wood chips, leaves or pine needles.

I recommend using an organic mulch directly on your soil — with no landscape fabric barrier — because you reap the added benefit of the mulch breaking down and improving your soil.

This does mean that you will have to replenish your mulch periodically because all the hungry microorganisms are eating your mulch and turning it into fabulous soil. At first this might be an annual chore, but as the microorganisms become more robust, you may find that you have to add mulch a few times a year.

When putting organic mulch down, a 3- or 4-inch layer is ideal. Also, don’t pile it up against the trunk of a tree or the stem of a plant — leave a little doughnut of space around it.

There are many reasons for using mulch besides the slow-release fertilizer effect. Mulch actually moderates soil temperature, protecting plant roots from the scorching sun in summer and extreme cold in the winter. Mulch helps reduce weeds, which are unwanted competition with your plants for water, sunlight and nutrients.

Mulch functions like the icing on the cake — not only does it make the garden attractive and complete but it holds in moisture.

Now that your landscape is fully mulched, don’t miss these upcoming events.

On Sept. 23, learn all about basil’s most famous product: pesto. This free presentation will include different types of pesto, taste tests with recipes and how to grow basil yourself. The presentation will be from 10 to 11:30 a.m at the Denton County Extension office, 401 W. Hickory St. in Denton.

Mark your calendar now to attend the Denton County Master Gardener Association Fall Garden Fest on Oct. 5. This free event will be at the Denton Bible Church campus, with lectures, educational booths and vendors from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you have ever thought about becoming a Master Gardener volunteer, join us for our informational roundup on Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Denton County Extension Office. All the details are available at You can e-mail us at or call 940-349-2892.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or