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fliesbath 03-01-2017 07:53 AM

Natives, summer water, & mulch
I am going to make a bold claim here. Please let me know how and why I am wrong.

Claim: Southern California chaparral natives (ceanothus, manzanita, salvia, etc.) should be only lightly mulched or mulched with rocks.

Why? These plants should not be watered extensively in the summer because they are susceptible to soil pathogens which thrive in hot, wet environments. But what happens in the wild when a rare summer shower comes through? In this situation, the pathogens are dormant and at a minimum as they have been subjected to the hot dry summer. The summer shower lightly moistens the top of the soil. The pathogens do not have time to multiply as the plants' roots absorb the water quickly and the rest is evaporated by the summer heat. In the wild, if there were a three inch layer of mulch on the ground, none of this summer shower would reach the plants' roots.

Also, the folks at Las Pilitas and here at CNPS (on their websites) say that "dusting of the the plants' leaves" with a hose once a week is helpful. They do not say why this "dusting off" is helpful. My claim is that this simulates a light summer shower--not enough to get the pathogens growing, but enough to get a little water to the roots.

Again, with a three inch layer of mulch, the water doesn't easily reach the roots. With no mulch, very thin mulch, or rocks as mulch, even a very light spray or even dew will be enough to get to the roots.

Deep mulch would only be helpful during the late fall through spring when it is cool enough to retain moisture in the ground without the threat of pathogen growth. Is it worth it? If it does not happen in the wild, why do it?

I am certain there are better native California gardeners/botanists out there than me...please let me know how and why I am wrong.

Thank you!

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