I made a mistake this spring and it cost me some crops in this year of severe drought.
A lot of my beds needed heavier mulch in deep paths in order to cover the sides of the bed and protect the precious moisture that the beds held. In addition, many of the beds filled with onions in the spring were not as heavily mulched as they should have been.
My thought was that I could mulch heavily after the substantial rains that usually come the first or second week in June. They never came and the beds dried severely. That made it impossible for late crops.
There are 3 basic points to remember when it comes to mulching.
1. When extreme heat comes, your beds should already have a deep layer of mulch on them.
The key however is to apply mulch after a soaker rain. That keeps the moisture in. If you apply a thick layer of mulch when your soil is dry, rain can’t soak the soil as readily when it finally comes. It will tend to seep just through the straw and never get down deep enough.
2. In weather that is cool and wet you don’t need as much mulch. A couple of inches is sufficient. Deep mulch keeps the soil cooler and your warm weather crops usually planted in April (at least in Virginia) need warmer soil.
If it is an extremely wet season, you’ll need just enough to cover. Also, you’ll want to pull the mulch slightly away from the base of the plants.
3. Keep in mind that you always want some mulch to protect your soil from the elements in any season and in any weather.
And remember —- having your paths and the sides of your beds (as well as the top) covered at all times will go a long way towards keeping you from coming up short like I did this year.