Succulent soft fruit freshly picked from the garden is on all our minds, so getting the best and tastiest rasps and strawberries is a high priority.

This means keeping the fruit healthy and able to absorb enough water. As we’ve already seen this year, total rainfall has been pretty small, just at the time when new plantings have tiny root systems and are at their most vulnerable. In a blog published by the Met Office in May, the odds of hotter, drier summers have become higher

The Met Office’s James Manning added that Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield would get a day’s supply of water if the UK’s 27 million gardeners used one less watering can of mains water over the summer.

This could be almost impossible for us if we didn’t conserve moisture by mulching. Even if we get the wettest summer on record, mulching would still help our plants as we’d stop unwelcome weeds smothering our strawberries and seizing much needed nutrients.

It’s not too late to mulch if you haven’t already done so. A mulch should only be placed on wet soil, so if, as seems likely at the moment, you haven’t had several days of heavy rain, give the ground a good soak and then cover.

But what kind of mulch should you use? Firstly, it should not be plastic or contain any plastic material. As everyone knows, we must reduce the amount of plastic we use. This applies as much in the garden as to the plastic bags and bottles that the Government is targeting. I’m constantly coming across tiny fragments of net or sheeting that have lingered for years in the ground, from before I actively started cutting back on plastic products. And also for environmental reasons, peat-based products should be avoided.

Avoid the likes of gravel, stone chips, crushed larva rock or recycled enviroglass. This inorganic material never rots down nor does it add nutrient and structure to the soil. Instead it will gradually mix into the soil reducing the volume available for plants.

Believe it or not, I don’t recommend using home-made compost for mulching. Despite your best efforts, it contains weed seeds and causes weeding headaches throughout the season.

But I do believe in Zero Miles Gardening, using home-produced materials. In this case, leafmould is top of the class: collect and store every leaf you can lay your hands on in the autumn.

And grass works well round fruit bushes such as currants and gooseberries, where you could first cover the ground with paper or cardboard to eliminate weeds. But don’t use such solid coverings round fruit like raspberries as they throw up next year’s canes during the summer.

You’ll probably have to buy some or most of your mulch, even if it is expensive. And biodegradable material should be at the very least 4-5cm thick to act as an effective weed suppressant. Since weeds compete for valuable, and often limited amounts of water, they should be eliminated.

Municipal green waste is the cheapest option. Although its nutritional quality varies, it is weed-free and worms gradually process it. ‘Green Goodness’ is a good example of this.

‘Strulch’ should do well, especially for strawberries. This wheat straw-based product is an alternative to straw, the traditional way of keeping the fruit clean and off the soil. Just don’t believe the manufacturer’s claims about warding off slugs. Like egg shells, these fellas take it in their stride.

You could choose bark or woodchip, but it takes years to rot down and does little to improve soil fertility. These products work well round shrubs and in herbaceous borders that don’t need extra nutrient, but not in the productive garden.

Plant of the week

Mange-tout pea, Spring Blush. Has bi-coloured purple flowers that are as pretty as any Sweet Pea. But then it produces tasty, fleshy pods that are also flushed with pink making them easy to find amongst the foliage.