Don’t be the gardener who is cursing in July while hoeing or hand-weeding overgrown weeds in the blazing sun. There is an easier way, it’s mulch. When you mulch you weed much less, you water less, and your soil is moister in mid-summer. Trust us, you want to mulch and your plants will thank you too.
Many gardeners in this garden use plastic mulch, which comes in sheets that you roll out and pin down with metal or plastic pegs. The problem with plastic sheets is that it does not decompose, so your soil gets no benefit. Then you’ve got the plastic waste itself every year, that’s not good.
You want to put the plastic or Bio360 down early in the season, for 2 reasons. One, this prevents the weeds from getting started. The classic mistake is to let the weeds get a foothold, it’s impressive how quickly they grow, starting mid-June. Two, your soil is going to heat up faster with this mulch in place and most plants that thrive in summer, like tomatoes, love warm soil.
The other popular choice is straw or hay, which you can buy in bales from Home Depot or Loew’s, or any garden center. The key to using hay is to put it down thickly. If you can see the soil through the hay then the weeds will grow. Put a layer down that’s at least 6” deep. Over the season the hay slowly decomposes, so don’t be stingy! Expect to use at least 2 bales of hay or straw for a full plot, over the entire season.
Bear in mind that straw is an insulator so if you lay it down on cool soil that soil is going to heat up more slowly. Wait until mid-June or so to put down your straw mulch.
You can get straw at Home Depot or Loews these days, or most local nurseries.
The third choice is a biodegradable mulch, like Bio360 Biodegradable Mulch. The material comes in rolls like plastic mulch but decomposes slowly. It’s black and absorbs sunlight, heating up the soil, which the heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers are going to like.
Here’s a good article on mulch from Rodale.