The simplest way of locking in soil moisture and suppressing weeds, is to apply a mulch – a thick layer of material or plants that covers the surface of the soil between the plants.

A thick layer of chipped bark (7.5 cm or 3″) will do the job but, as it can be fairly expensive, save it for small or prominent parts of the garden. Elsewhere, you can use any of the cheaper composts, or a planting membrane disguised with a sprinkling of soil or bark chips.

Remember to apply mulches when the soil is damp, so that moisture is locked in rather than out. Other materials suitable as a mulch are: shells, wood chips, shredded newspaper or even wool. Plastic mulch where the plants grow through slits in the material or just cover the ground to block out any weed growth.

Rocks and gravels are excellent as they can extend the growing season by retaining heat in the rocks. Ground cover plants are the best mulches and weed suppressants of all. They shade the ground, preventing loss of moisture through evaporation and are the most cost-effective and attractive way of filling gaps between plants.

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