Senior Member
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Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:08 pm
Location: Metro Atlanta, GA (zone 7)

A really dumb mulching question - re: moisture

I have read over and over and over again the virtues of THICK mulch layers to keep moisture in. I know everyone swears by it.

But I can't get past one mental roadblock about thick mulches.

Every time I've moved aside a thick layer of straw, even after a very heavy rain, the first inch or so is wet, but the inches underneath are bone dry.

So in my head, I think thick mulch layer = water not getting to my plants' roots.

Can someone justify these two things and explain how thick mulch will still allow my plants to get the water they need? or does all the water they need travel through the tiny ring I leave open around the stem/trunk?

Greener Thumb
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Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 3:00 pm
Location: Austin, TX

My mulch does that in the compost bin sometimes, I just stir it and break up clumps then add some tree bark(broken into small 1/2 inch pieces
). Add something like tree bark or small sticks since they don't break down as quick as other materials and help prevent mulch from clumping. I've had leaves basically paper meche themselves together and prevent any water from passing, but once broken up they worked.

I put a layer of compost down for nutrition, and then a layer of tree bark to block the searing heat of Texas from drying everything up.

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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M(11/B)

First time you apply mulch, you want to water deeply FIRST, then mulch.
You may want to remove your mulch and repeat the mulching process, starting with the water.

Senior Member
Posts: 228
Joined: Wed Jun 03, 2009 2:08 pm
Location: Metro Atlanta, GA (zone 7)

Thank you... I suspected that watering deeply (and watering the mulch itself well) was key... I guess I'll take the plunge and try a thick mulch layer and trust that water will still be able to get through. Thanks for your replies!

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: TN/GA 7b

mulch and watering

Do leave a little area around your stems that is mulch free (maybe a little bigger than the "tiny circle" you mentioned). I use that for watering my plants. Just pour water in the mulch free area. That way I am only watering the roots of my plants. I've never needed to pull the mulch away and rewater. My tomatoes and peppers are doing very well this way. Given how much rain we've been having, I haven't had to water very often.

Newly Registered
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Joined: Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:31 pm
Location: South central Ontario

Too much of a good thing

The idea of mulching is to prevent evaporation from the soil, not to block moisture from rain or irrigation.

A "thick" mulch would, in my opinion, be 3 to 4 inches of shredded bark. This may be ok in special circumstances, like protecting plants over winter; but for most growing season applications, about 2 inches is adequate.

As for watering, irrigate deeply but less frequently to grow deep roots. This saturates the mulch as well as the soil below to a depth of at least 2 inches. I don't subscribe to the idea of watering a small area around the trunk. This can lead to disease problems on some plants, and does not put the water at the drip line, where it is most needed.

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