Answer: I highly recommend layering several inches of mulch on top of the soil in gardens and around landscape plants. Mulch is great to help retain soil moisture, reduce soil temperatures and reduce weeds, and as it breaks down it provides nutrients to the soil. Any organic matter can be used as mulch. Try compost, bark, wood chips, straw, or pine needles. As for the grass, if you don't have it on an automatic sprinkling system, I suggest watering it slowly, so that the water penetrates to a depth of 8-10 inches. Even during hot conditions, lawns watered properly to this depth shouldn't dry out for at least 2-3 days. You may want to enlist a neighbor or pay a teen to check on it for you. To determine how far water has penetrated, poke a soil probe (any long metal rod or screwdriver) into the soil. It will move easily through moist soil, stopping abruptly where soil is dry. Enjoy your vactation!
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