What is mulch?
Mulch is material applied to the soil surface to protect and/or improve the area covered or simply as a groundcover. It is often applied around plants with the intent being to modify the soil environment and enhance targeted plant growth. Mulch may be made of organic material such as bark, wood chips, pine needles or composts, and may also be made of inorganic material such as gravel, plastic, pebbles, woven ground cloth or even aluminum foil,.
Benefits of applying mulch.
- Diminishes water loss from soil by evaporation which occurs when moisture, moving normally through the soil by capillary action, reaches the surface.
- Controls weeds, dependent on application (depth) and type of mulch used.
- Decaying organic mulch adds organic matter to the soil thereby enhancing it.
- Insulates soil thereby modifying soil temperature which enhances plant health and growth.
- Improves soil condition by reducing erosion and surface crustation resulting in improved absorption and percolation
of water into soil.
- Enhances visual impact.
Incorrect mulch application.
However, there can be a downside to mulching. If not applied correctly (to correct depth), over mulching can create an environment which can harbor organisms capable of causing bark rot. Too deep a layer of organic mulch can also provide an environment which may support a variety of harmful fungi, bacteria and especially harmful insects (termites).
Rules for applying mulch.
- Apply around established plants at any time. Newly planted plants should be mulched only after a thorough watering.
- Avoid deep applications, dependent on mulch size a 2 to 3 inch maximum layer is preferred (even less with small size mulches).
- Avoid frequent watering as mulching results in less of a need.
- Rake and turn mulch periodically to aerate.
- Decrease the depth of mulch, use inorganic mulch or eliminate mulch altogether nearer to home foundations to lessen the attractiveness to termites.
- Inspect mulch periodically for evidence of insect infestation and the need for additional applications to replace decayed organic mulch.
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