Benefits of Mulch
Mulch not only beautifies planting beds with an attractive layer of material over bare soil, it also has several positive benefits, such as making garden maintenance easier while improving the health of your plants. Organic mulching materials, like straw, wood chips, leaves and grass clippings, offer the greatest benefits.
Most plants need constant moisture for proper growth. Mulch keeps the soil moist for longer than uncovered dirt. The material absorbs water from rainfall and irrigation and slows the evaporation of moisture from the soil. The improved water retention may reduce the need for frequent irrigation, allowing you to space out the plant watering longer to reduce water consumption. A layer of mulch also slows erosion by preventing water from washing soil out of the garden.
Soil Temperature Control
Mulch serves as an insulating layer for the soil so the temperature of the ground changes more slowly. Mulch applied in the spring or early summer keeps the soil cooler for longer. The mulching material absorbs some of the sun’s rays and slows the temperature increase of the soil. As the temperatures drop in the fall and winter, the layer of mulch allows the soil to retain heat. The warmer soil allows plants to grow longer than they would otherwise, and helps protects plants’ roots from harsh winter temperatures.
While healthy plant growth pushes out some weed growth, a layer of mulch suppresses even more unwanted weed growth in your gardens and planting beds. Mulch prevents sunlight from reaching germinating weeds so they aren’t able to grow. When weed seeds land on top of mulch, they aren’t able to root themselves deeply into the soil, so even if they grow they are easier to remove.
Organic mulch materials, such as wood chips or leaves, break down over time. The decomposing mulch adds nutrient-rich organic matter to the soil. These nutrients feed the plants and organisms living in the planting area covered with mulch. The decomposed materials also improve the structure of the soil by adding space between particles in the soil. The added space in the soil better supplies plant roots with water, oxygen and nutrients because the roots aren’t compressed in hard, compacted soil.