what to use for garden mulch to reduce evaporation

Last year was insane
It was so hot and dry and no rain for weeks and weeks
I think i spent an average of $40 a month just on the vegetable garden and shrubs.
I was thinking of using Hay or Straw I am not sure what I can get
I need something that will reduce water evaporation and not cause growth of mold.
I really need some hints this year last year i resorted to letting everything but the zucinni and the tomatoes die because it was costing too much and taking too much time to water often 2 times a day for 30 minutes or more just for the garden.
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Straw is better than hay. I have used compost, cut grass, and plastic sheeting. The plants mulched with compost responded exceptionally well.
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wrote:

Alfalfa is an *excellant* mulch, and greatly benefits the soil and plants, nitrogen rich, among other things. Afalfa meal is a great soil amendment, as well.
Charlie
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<Charlie> wrote

Alfalfa as in the bale you buy to feed a horse?
Steve
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On Mon, 17 Mar 2008 20:25:36 -0800, "SteveB"

Yes. Simply flake it and apply as mulch. Or chop it and use.
Alfalfa meal from the feed store is simply ground alfalfa.
Charlie
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On 3/17/2008 2:49 PM, snipped-for-privacy@anonamoo.com wrote:

Like you, my concern is keeping the soil cool and moist. I try to keep a leaf mulch in my garden year round. Some parts of my garden are exposed to strong winds; there, I use tree branches or even chicken wire to hold the leaves in place. Around my camellias (which don't want a lot of nutrients), I use the output from my officer shredder; this seems to stay in place better than leaves. Yesterday, I mulched some newly planted roses with the "fallout" from my ash tree (Fraxinus uhdei), the annoying fluff that rains down while the tree is in bloom.
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David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
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For water retention use whatever organic material that you can get that is cheap and readily available. As others have said the quality as it breaks down varies. However if my budget allowed for either thick mulch of a cheap material or only a thin mulch of a higher nutrient material I would choose thick.

Not possible, there will always be some mould, fungi are essential to your garden. The way to reduce mould growing on your plants is to allow air circulation and avoid splashing water on the leaves and up from the soil, if possible water the roots only.

Good thick mulch will save much water - go for it. Is it possible where you are to install a tank for roof water? This can save you if tap water is expensive.
David
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chopped up leaves (mower or shrededer) but not spread too thickly, dry pine needles work as a mulch
rob
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wrote:

I chop leaves in large plastic trash can using a weedeater/stringtrimmer. Easy to pour them where you want them. They don't fly out as I assumed they might.
Charlie
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Thank you for your ideas
Last year I tried to find straw instead of Hay but it is difficult to find
I guess they only keep what horses eat
Alphalpha would be nice if i can get it
Unfortunately we dont have enough trees for leaves and the ones i collect from the lawn also have random garbage.. small pieces of paper and plastic. I started saving it but I have decided against it.
Grass Clippings we have but I dont think this is a good idea in a vegetable garden.
For some reason grass breaks down and gets very hot as it mulches but also the chemicals on the lawn are probably not so great to be eating even at low levels.
I dont use pesticides in the garden
I am going to try straw if i can get some
I was also thinking of getting some window screen to provide some shad over the plants maybe and it might also reduce bugs.
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