Mulch…We here in the piedmont of Virginia have been having a rough go of it this summer in the rainfall department. Mulch has saved our bacon this season. We put in a huge display garden around our new retail space, mulch like superman saved the day. We would never have been able to keep it watered and looking as great as it does without mulch. It is just the thing for keeping the moisture where it belongs around the roots. It also helps suppress weeds, which tend to grow faster than the stuff we actually planted. The kind of mulch we choose and the amount used differs depending on what and where. Our personal view is about one inch of mulch put on once or twice a year. Applying mulch like this still helps retain moisture in the soil and lets rain or your watering through. Too much mulch can make an impenetrable barrier to water, not to mention an ugly mound. We are also careful to pull the mulch away from the base of each plant so if we get too much moisture it doesn't sit next to the stem of the plant and help to rot it. As to what to mulch with, that is up to your personal taste. The field is now so varied, and personal taste so distinct that I won't comment much on this. I will tell you we use double shredded hard wood that looks very dark on the ground. We think it shows off the plants better and looks more natural.
A garden tip for this time of year that I am dealing with now.
Edit your garden. This is a good time to remove plants that didn't work out. Maybe they took up too much space where you put them (my yarrow), or didn't perform well, or it isn't the look you want for that part of your garden. Dig them up and give them away or move them to another part of your garden or return them to the garden in the form of compost (which means throw them on the compost pile, ashes to ashes dust to dust). Don't keep something in your garden you don't like just because it is alive and healthy. It is your garden and when you look at it I want you to smile. Aren't gardens wonderfully recyclable?