California is still caught in the grips of a severe drought that has everyone worried about what the future holds for residents, farms, and rivers alike. According to the latest released records, the state’s reservoirs are still “dangerously low.”The drought has caused a series of repercussions that there is no quick relief from anytime soon. Residents have been asked to drastically cut back on their water intake. Consequently, the sale of pools has fallen dramatically in a state often known for its excessive homes and gardens. Landscaping has had an impact, as many residents choose to stop watering their lawns every day. Almond farmers are battling local tribes, who rely on salmon in the Klamath River, for reservoir water.In San Diego, Bruce Henderson was worried about his lemon groves, which reside in Rancho Santa Fe. The combination of high water prices, water-use restrictions, and drought had him wondering whether this year would be the end of the area’s picturesque lemon groves. Instead, he discovered a solution that many may be already using in their gardens: mulch.
“All you have to do is spread it around. My water problem went away just like that,” Henderson explains. “There are no weeds, the grove looks good and the trees are happy.” He says that, thanks to the mulch, he has been able to cut back his watering to only three times a year — one hour in July, August, and September.
“The best way to maintain moisture is by using mulch,” says Don Saunders, President of Saunders Landscape Supply. “The wood itself is porous, so there is moisture within the mulch itself. Because of this, mulch will allow rainfall to reach the soil but prevents it from leaving in a rapid manner due to being effective ground cover.”While mulch helps insulate soil and retain moisture, there are more benefits than just this alone. Some people have abandoned their groves or reduced watering without adding mulch. This ends up leading to defoliation and dead trees — which can catch on fire more easily.Still, Chuck Badger, a grove property manager, says that mulch isn’t the right solution for all soil types. Certain types of soil — like soil with a heavy clay composition — tend to hold on to water. This can create a problem when mulch is added to the mix.
“If you don’t let the soil dry out, you’re at risk of that fungus,” Badger explains. Mulch works best with soils that are more sandy in composition, which allows for better drainage.