Mulching is one of the most important ways to maintain healthy landscape plants. A mulch is any material applied to the soil surface for protection or improvement of the area covered. Mulching is really nature’s idea. Nature produces large quantities of mulch all the time with fallen leaves, needles, twigs, pieces of bark, spent flower blossoms, fallen fruit and other organic material.
Benefits of Mulching
When applied correctly, mulch has the following beneficial effects on plants and soil:
- Mulches prevent loss of water from the soil by evaporation.
- Mulches reduce the growth of weeds, when the mulch material itself is weed-free and applied deeply enough to prevent weed germination or to smother existing weeds.
- Mulches keep the soil cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, thus maintaining a more even soil temperature.
- Mulches prevent soil splashing, which not only stops erosion but keeps soil-borne diseases from splashing up onto the plants.
- Organic mulches can improve the soil structure. As the mulch decays, the material becomes topsoil. Decaying mulch also adds nutrients to the soil.
- Mulches prevent crusting of the soil surface, thus improving the absorption and movement of water into the soil.
- Mulches prevent the trunks of trees and shrubs from damage by lawn equipment.
- Mulches help prevent soil compaction.
- Mulches can add to the beauty of the landscape by providing a cover of uniform color and interesting texture to the surface.
- Mulched plants have more roots than plants that are not mulched, because mulched plants will produce additional roots in the mulch that surrounds them.
Types of Mulches
There are basically two types of mulches: organic and inorganic. Both types may have their place in the garden.
An organic mulch is a mulch made of natural substances such as bark, wood chips, leaves, pine needles, or grass clippings. Organic mulches attract insects, slugs, cutworms and the birds that eat them. They decompose over time and need to be replaced after several years.
Inorganic mulches, such as gravel, pebbles, black plastic and landscape fabrics, do not attract pests and they do not decompose.
The great thing about mulch is that it can be made out of any household recyclable materials whether they are organic or not. But for the full benefits to improve your soil use organic mulches; contact your local Central Coast Landscape Supplier or Tree Service for good quality leaf mulch. Make sure it comes from a source that is free of pests and diseases.