Mulching is one of the most important ways to maintain healthy trees, plants, and soil when applied correctly. Mulch is defined as any material applied to the soil surface for protection or improvement of the area covered. Mulching is not a new idea, in fact it was created by nature itself. Nature creates large quantities of mulch continually by producing fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, flower blossoms, and fallen fruit.
The Benefits of Proper Mulching:
- Mulch prevents loss of water from the soil by wind and evaporation, thus minimizing the need to water.
- Mulch reduces the growth of weeds when applied deep enough to prevent weed germination or suffocate existing weeds. This lessens the competition for water and nutrients from unwanted weeds and grass. If weeds do grow within the mulch, they are often much easier to pull or remove.
- Mulch keeps the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, thus maintaining a more even soil temperature by acting as an insulator.
- Mulch prevents soil splashing during heavy rainstorms, which not only stops erosion but keeps soil-borne diseases from splashing up onto the plants. In addition, this gives plants a clean and attractive appearance.
- Mulch prevents crusting of the soil surface and compaction, thus improving the aeration and absorption of water.
- Organic mulch can improve the soil structure and fertility. As the mulch decays, the material becomes fresh topsoil. Decaying mulch adds needed nutrients (although can tie up nitrogen temporarily) and organisms to the soil.
- Mulch prevents the trunks of trees and plants from damage by lawn equipment such as weed eaters and mowers.
- Mulch dramatically adds to the beauty of a landscape by providing an attractive rich color and a well-groomed appearance.
- Mulched plants have more roots than plants that are not mulched. In addition, mulch protects roots that are near the soil surface, which are many times damaged when not mulched.
- Mulch is a major labor saving method reducing the need for cultivation, herbicides, watering, and general maintenance.
NOTE: It is important not to "over mulch", this can lead to a restriction of water, promote disease, encourage rot, and insect issues. For most mulch, having a 2.5 - 4.0 inch total depth is recommended. If the mulch is applied too deep or if the wrong material is used, it can actually cause significant harm to trees and plants. In addition, it is highly recommended that the areas to be mulched are weeded and all debris removed prior to the installation of mulch.
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