Friday, June 09, 2006

URGENT: Mandatory watering restrictions

No rain. Lakes are dropping rapidly. Municipalities all over North Texas have implemented mandatory watering restrictions this summer. Some went into effect June 1st; Plano's policy kicks in June 19th. Check with your city's utilities department for your community's specific policy.

So what does this mean for you? A little extra effort. Frisco residents, for example, are permitted to water 1-inch-per-week via their in-ground irrigation system beginning June 1st. This means residents must hand-water to supplement their irrigation system.

In an effort to assist our customers and prospective clients, we will list tips here that will help to keep your plants hydrated this summer. Follow this plan whether your garden is well-established or brand-spanking-new. This plan should be followed until Labor Day, when restrictions are likely to be lifted.
  • Add mulch. Not just any mulch, mind you. We use exclusively Fine Shredded Hardwood Mulch from Living Earth Technologies. There are other good brands: one sold through Home Depot and Lowe's called "Black Diamond" and Plano Pure's hardwood mulch. Whatever the brand, just be sure it's not cedar or cypress mulch, or pine bark nuggets. The Living Earth product retains moisture which will help your plants stay hydrated in summer, insulated in winter. However, we prefer it because it also feeds the soil as it decomposes.
  • Test soil surrounding your plants. Insert your index finger approximately 2-3" into the soil. Is it wet or dry? If wet, don't water. Test each day until the soil is dry, then proceed to the next step.
  • Deep-root water each plant individually. Lay a garden hose at the base of the first plant and turn the faucet until water streams lightly from the hose. Allow the water to permeate the soil and root ball for 20-30 seconds, then move your hose to the next plant. Repeat this step for every plant in your garden, young or mature. Even well-established plants will be affected by lack of rain and irrigation, so it's important to protect your investment. Deep-root watering will encourage roots to grow downward in their search for moisture. If you water on the surface only you are training the roots to grow outward, creating a shallow root system which is weaker than a deep-root system.
  • Operate your irrigation system once-per-week. Ideally you will do this manually, but if you must, set your system to automatically spray one time, up to 1-inch-per-week. Check with your lawn maintenance company, irrigation installer, or irrigation box manufacturer for instructions on managing your system.
  • Cross your fingers! Perhaps we will have rain again someday, returning lakes to their normal levels and eliminating water restrictions. When that happens, test the soil before you resume your watering regimen.

Remember, even low-maintenance gardens and landscapes need extra attention this summer. It might seem at times you are working too hard to keep plants hydrated but if you help them during this unusual season, they will be stronger and more likely to survive future exceptional weather. And you will be protecting your investment!


Anonymous said...

WHY ARE YOU GUYS SO DOWN ON CEDAR MULCH????? Is it because it's hard to find native local cedar in the DFW area??

My thoughts on mulch are.

The best mulch for any site anywhere is recycled plant material (leaves, twigs, spent plants, buds, bark, flowers and other plant debris) that grew on your property. That's the natural way it is done in the forest and on the prairie. The second best choice is purchased shredded native cedar. Third in line is shredded hardwood bark. After that, the rest of the mulch is junk.

I read you mulch section like Cedar is some kind of toxic deadly mulch. It has some great benefits and some say it breaks down better than hardwood.

nativedave said...

Not exactly "down" on cedar mulch. Based on years of experience and experimentation with a variety of products, we prefer fine shredded hardwood mulch because a) it breaks down rather quickly, creating biomass and b) the product we use is created from local woody materials. We agree with you about the best mulch being recycled plant material collected onsite. Therefore, cedar mulch might be better suited to, say, Austin than Dallas, just as pine mulch works better in east Texas than Austin or Dallas.

Of course, emulating nature is always the best, lowest-maintenance option. However, young gardens/landscapes need help, even when the backbone of the project is native plants. For example, most likely your natives will be purchased from a grower or nursery, unless you collect them 'in the wild.' Being container-grown, they are not equipped or programmed to thrive naturally yet. Since germination they have been under consistent, regulated irrigation and fertilized and pruned by human hands. Obviously, these are not 'natural' conditions, therefore the plants must be gradually weaned as they adapt to your garden. Not even native plants can just be thrown in the ground and forgotten...

So, the same goes for the mulching process. The fine shredded hardwood mulch we recommend is 1/3 hardwood, 1/3 sand, 1/3 compost, more or less. This is the only fertilizer we use on our projects, period. And it's been the best product for helping our gardens make the transition from grower to nursery to landscape.

I guess the real bottom-line is this: opinions about gardening are about as similar as two blooms on the same plant. Cedar isn't 'toxic' by any means, and it certainly has its benefits. We don't recommend it for the reasons listed above, but also keep in mind that if a woody material remains moist and doesn't decompose it just might become a termite buffet. We've never had this problem with fine shredded hardwood, which is why we promote it over all other mulches. Thanks for your comments -- we welcome any and all opinions!

Anonymous said...

DUDE someone was harsh. But once again David and Christy are calm and cool in their response. I'll admit I like cedar mulch as well as hardwood mulch.

However, being without a truck for hauling I"m stuck with buying it by the bag. No one sells fine shredded hardwood by the bag. So, I'm stuck buying bagged cedar or hardwood. A 3 cu ft of cedar used to be the best priced option for $3.68. However, Lowe's has a nice 3cu ft bag of organic hardwood mulch for $2.88. For the bag consumer, this is my best bet in the metroplex.

Apparantly for good cedar mulch in bulk you have to contact silver creek materials in Ft. Worth. Supposedly use fresh cedar trees. Lowe's sells fresh organic cedar by the bag from Austin but it's $3 for a 2 cu ft bag.

Christy is right though. There's more than one way to skin a cat in these times. No mulch is worse than the debate between hardwood or cedar.

However, I HATE pine bark mulch or nuggets as well as the colored rubber stuff.

FINALLY, weed barriers DO NOT work. Don't waste your money. Mulch works just as good.

Don't know if my comments helped. I guess the debate will always be which breakdowns quicker and locks together better?? Hardwood vs. Cedar??? i wonder if going fine shredded hardwood makes it the winner??

TRUST David and CHRISTY!!!


nativedave said...

I'm glad this post has sparked debate. This is the only way we learn and grow as gardeners -- by sharing information and opinions. And it pleases me immensely that people are reading and commenting on the blog.

Anonymous, thank you for taking time to post your thoughts on mulch. We hope you will continue to read and comment, as you feel so compelled. Ben, thanks for your continued support of us, our mission and even this blog. Both of you and your viewpoints remind us why we do what we do.

shamus said...

my 2 cents- the reason hardwood is the best choice for most people is because it does not have to be removed before new mulch is added. the oils and saps in cedar, cypress, and pine mulch keeps it from breaking down. it is my experience that homeowners will just put new mulch on top of old most of the time, which eventually prevents water, air and amendments from penetrating the mulch to get to the soil, essentially defeating the purpose of mulching beds

Anonymous said...

So what's so magic in hardwood that makes it breakdown?

From what I've read in the metroplex, CEDAR breaks down the fastest and therefore is a good choice. Plus it reduces insects.

I don't get how hardwood can be piled on top of but Cedar has to be removed periodically.

Obviously, pine bark nuggets are dumb b/c they float and are out of place in the metroplex.

Why would Howard push cedar so hard if it's so bad???????

Anonymous said...

Have you ever tried pine straw?Being a native Floridian, the mulch of choice for me is pine straw. I love the look of Pine Straw in my beds. It adds a deep reddish color especially after watering or rain. Plus, I have found that compared to hardwood mulches, the pine straw does a better job at weed prevention. It also does not crust over like hardwood mulch thereby improving soil moisture penetration. East Texas has an abundance of pine tree forests and there are some local sources for purchasing pine straw in the DFW area.

nativedave said...

Wow, who knew a post on something like mulch would be so controversial and evoke so much emotion?

It appears everyone has her own opinion about what is the best mulch material and why. Some favor cedar, some pine straw, some prefer reused rubber shavings. Our preference is fine shredded hardwood mulch for a variety of reasons, which I've explained in previous posts. We recommend hardwood to folks living on the Blackland Prairie in North Central Texas, but it might not be the best mulch material for everyplace. East Texans would do well to use pine straw mulch, for example. We promote sustainable gardening techniques, which include but are not limited to, restoring native plants, recreating natural ecological systems, preserving and conserving natural resources (such as water), and providing food and shelter for native wildlife. We consider each of these items when we create designs and consult with clients, and all of our recommendations (including mulch materials) address sustainability issues and derive from more than twenty years experience landscaping with native plants and natural, eco-friendly materials. Our intent is not to preach about which mulch is the prettiest or most water-absorbing. We have a holistic approach to landscape, and mulch is just one piece in the sustainability puzzle. There are plenty of viable mulch media; our preference is hardwood.

nativedave said...

Oh, yes, I forgot to answer the last post from 'anonymous'. Yes, we used pine straw mulch when we managed a native plant nursery in Florida. Works terrific there, especially on the coast as the 'soil' is mostly nutrient-deficient white sand. Everytime I see pine straw mulch I take a mental voyage back to the beach...*sigh* Thanks for your comments, one and all! Happy New Year; here's to another bountiful year!