Mulches for the Landscape1


A mulch is any material applied to the soil surface for protection or improvement of the area covered. Mulches are frequently applied around plants to modify the soil environment and enhance plant growth. The mulch material may be organic such as bark, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, grass clippings or similar material; or inorganic such as gravel, pebbles, polyethylene film or woven ground cloth. BENEFITS OF MULCHING Mulching has the following beneficial effects upon the soil and plants. Mulches can prevent loss of water from the soil by evaporation. Moisture moves by capillary action to the surface and evaporates if the soil is not covered by a mulch. Mulches suppress weeds when the mulch material itself is weed-free and applied deeply enough to prevent weed germination or to smother existing small weeds. A more uniform soil temperature can be maintained by mulching. The mulch acts as an insulator that keeps the soil cool under intense sunlight and warm during cold weather. Mulching will prevent crusting of the soil surface, thus improving absorption and percolation of water into the soil and, at the same time, reducing erosion. Organic materials used as a mulch can improve soil structure and tilth. As mulch decays, the material becomes topsoil. Decaying mulch may also add nutrients to the soil. Mulches also add to the beauty of the landscape by providing a cover of uniform color and interesting texture to the surface. Mulched plants will produce roots in the mulch that surrounds them. These roots are produced in addition to the roots that a plant produces in the soil. As a result, mulched plants have more roots than unmulched plants

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