Gardening cannot be successful without mulch – often viewed as an aesthetic material, and a covering of mulch may indeed improve the appearance of your garden beds. Beauty, on the other hand, is only a bonus. Mulch’s advantages extend far beyond its look.
So, what is mulch used for? Please scroll through the end of our article and learn more about the benefits of mulch, types of mulches, and how to use them.
- What Is Mulch Used For: 8 Purposes Of Mulch In Practice
- Understand 2 Different Groups Of Mulch
- How To Apply Mulch
- The Bottom Line
What Is Mulch Used For: 8 Purposes Of Mulch In Practice
Mulch is used to maintain the soil’s moisture, reduce weeds, keep the soil moist, prevent frost loading in the winter, and improve the appearance of the garden bed. As the organic mulch decomposes, it improves the soil’s drainage, structure, and nutrient-holding capacity.
1. Enhance The Look Of Your Garden
Mulch is used only for this purpose by many gardeners. However, mulch can significantly enhance the appearance of the plants and your lawn in your garden beds.
2. Retain Moisture
Mulch acts as an insulator against evaporation caused by heat and wind. In addition, mulch retains moisture in the soil, allowing you to reduce the duration and frequency of watering drastically.
This feature promotes older plants to become more drought-tolerant, but it may also make or break newborn shrubs and trees.
3. Moderate The Soil Temperature
Many of a plant’s feeder roots (those that perform the heavy work in nutrient uptake for the plant) develop in the first few inches under the soil surface.
When those roots are not subjected to severe heat or cold conditions, they remain healthy—a mulch layer functions as a barrier against temperature changes.
In addition, heat from the sun can burn exposed soil, forming a crust that prevents water from penetrating the surface.
A coating of snow can give protection as temperatures drop; without a mulch layer or snow, an overnight frost or constant freezing temperatures can kill or damage feeding roots.
4. Buffer the Soil Surface from Erosion and Runoff
Irrigation and rain will flow over the surface, bringing topsoil particles and any chemicals or extra fertilizer with it if the soil crusts over and becomes impervious to water. Crusted soil is also more prone to wind erosion.
You may already be aware that soil compaction can cause long-term issues, which is why you should never walk in your garden or landscaping beds.
But, did you also know that heavy rain or hail can cause the same compacting effect? Mulch may shield your soil from all of these harmful elements.
Even flexible bare soil is vulnerable to erosion. Water will target the lowest place in the landscape during a significant rain event and sweep away some of your topsoils if it is not covered with mulch.
5. Suppress Weed Growth and Germination
Weeds are unavoidable in the garden, but you may considerably limit their population if you utilize mulch correctly. With a layer of mulch overlaying your garden soil, weed seeds won’t get the light to sprout, and mulch can prevent seeds that drift in the wind from penetrating the soil and cropping up.
Weeds that do germinate will be covered by mulch and are less likely to become entrenched. Mulch is one of the single best solutions you can do to manage weeds in your garden for all of these reasons.
6. Suppress Soil-borne Diseases
Many plant diseases can germinate in the soil. While some diseases infect plants through the root system, the majority must come into touch with the leaves.
Splashing water from rain or irrigation can transport soil-borne diseases up from the earth and onto the lower leaves of your plants. Disease infections that come into touch with the plant’s leaves can infect it.
Mulch works as a barrier to inhibit disease transmission through water, substantially lowering the risk of plant illnesses.
7. Add Nutrients and Organic Elements
Healthy soil should include about 30% organic matter (by volume). Native soils, such as clay and sand, are frequently deficient in organic substances. Mulch, like compost, is an excellent source of organic material for improving soil health.
Natural mulch material degrades over time. Thus, it nourishes the soil food web, which in turn nourishes your plants. Organic matter, on the other hand, enhances soil drainage over time.
8. Reduce Landfill Waste
Many mulches can be some kinds of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. Wood, pine bark, and leaves are all too frequently discarded. Consider them to be nature’s gifts to gardeners.
We are significantly reducing landfill trash by employing wood mulch products. However, in reality, 60% of all material disposed of in landfills may – and should – be composted, utilized as mulch, or repurposed.
Understand 2 Different Groups Of Mulch
Mulches are classified into two types: biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Both kinds control weeds by obstructing sunlight, which is required for weed seeds to preserve moisture and develop and flourish by decreasing evaporation from the soil’s surface.
These mulches progressively degrade, releasing nutrients into the soil and aiding in soil structure improvement. When the material has completely decayed, you need to replace the layers.
The best materials are garden compost, leaf mold, processed conifer bark, wood chippings, properly rotted manure, wasted hops (poisonous if eaten by dogs), straw (for strawberries), and seaweed.
Non-biodegradable mulches do not enhance soil fertility or structure, but they reduce weeds, retain moisture, and offer the added benefit of being attractive. Mulch made of slate, stone chippings, gravel, shingle, pebbles, and other ornamental aggregates helps cover beds.
Gardeners can also use seashells, tumbling glass, and other similar elements on the surface of containers, but remember to avoid plastic elements. Dark-colored mulch will warm the soil under the sun, but light-colored mulch, such as white gravel, will keep roots more relaxed and reflect sunlight.
For new beds or borders, you can use woven landscape fabric or sheet mulches. After laying, slits in the cloth will appear to facilitate direct planting beneath it.
The downside is that these mulches are unsightly, despite their camouflage with bark, gravel, or other materials. Always use an absorbent sheet to enable rain and irrigation water to access the roots since a waterproof coating may cause drainage and surface runoff issues elsewhere.
How To Apply Mulch
- You can completely mulch beds and borders, but take care not to suffocate low-growing plants or pile mulches up against the woody plants’ stems.
- Biodegradable mulches must be ideally 7.5cm (3in) thick or at least 5cm (2in) thick to be effective.
- Lay mulches over damp soil after eliminating weeds when the soil is not frozen
- Planting beneath mulch sheets is beneficial for building new beds.
- Mulching to the radius of the canopy is excellent for single trees and specimen plants.
- A biodegradable mulch will feed your plants and microorganisms in the soil as it decomposes, eliminating the need for extra soluble feed.
- Thymus species – a ground-covering Mediterranean plant may benefit from not leaving mulch since it can trap too much moisture around the stems and leaves.
The Bottom Line
We believe now you have your answer to the question “What is mulch used for?” Applying mulch is helpful to your garden. So, take advantage of its benefits, and you will be content with the results.