Mulch: What is it?

Mulching is the covering of the soil surrounding the base of plants, trees, and shrubs. It is a crucial step in agricultural operations because when done properly it can improve the quality and production volumes of fruits, grains, and vegetables. Mulch works by interacting with the soil the same way that dead plants do when they rest on the ground. Organic mulches, especially when ground or chipped to increase their surface area, can provide nutrients for trees and other plants. In landscapes today the use of synthetic mulch is not uncommon. Although it may work from an aesthetic viewpoint, this approach will not maintain or improve the health of plants.

The Different Types of Mulch

There are numerous types of mulch, but they all fall into two simple categories, organic and synthetic. In an attempt to help preserve the planet as much as possible, people are growing accustomed to using organic, all-natural mulch for their plants. 

Some of the organic mulches from which you can choose include:

  • Shredded Leaves
  • Straw
  • Pine Needles
  • Chipped or Shredded Bark
  • Wood chips

The synthetic mulches include: 

  • Stone
  • Gravel
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Black Plastic

Many homeowners that continue to use synthetic mulches do so because they believe it is cheaper. However, most of the organic mulches come directly from trees and plants anyway, so they really are not all that expensive, to begin with. Not to mention the fact that organic mulches also provide plants with nutrients, while synthetic mulches do not. Synthetic mulch is NOT recommended because they can increase soil temperature, not regulate it. 

Why is Mulch Important? What are the Benefits?

The main reason mulching is so important is because it builds soil fertility and holds in moisture, longer. This is crucial during the summer months, especially during the drought season. The mulch will hold onto the water longer, so homeowners don’t have to worry about watering their landscaping as often. 

Below are a few other benefits of regular mulching: 

  • It improves the quality of the soil by breaking it up and allowing more airflow
  • Acts as an insulator to keep the soil cooler during the summer
  • Reduces weeds from popping up

For as inexpensive as it is, investing in mulch every year is one of the best things homeowners can do for their trees and landscaping. It takes minimal effort to do and protects the plants all summer long. It’s something that shouldn’t ever be passed up. 

Professional tips to properly mulch

Consider these guidelines when mulching to maximize the positives effects of mulching:

1. Do not apply mulch I layers any deeper than 3-4 inches
2. Apply mulch in as great an area as possible in the tree’s root zone
3. Avoid mulching directly against the base of a tree
4. If mulching over soil, break up the soil to increase soil-mulch interactions
5. If re-mulching, break up the old mulch before applying new mulch
6. If the weather is dry, water after mulching.

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