Mulches are protective materials placed over soil to help retain moisture and improve overall soil conditions. When properly applied, mulch is very beneficial to plants, trees and shrubs, it can also give landscapes a very polished well maintained appearance. When improperly applied, mulch can do the reverse causing harm instead of providing protection.
BENEFITS OF PROPER MULCHING
- Better Moisture – Mulching helps retain moisture in the soil, which leads to less evaporation of water from the soil. This ensures your plants are kept hydrated longer and reduces the chance of them drying out.
- Weed Control – A covering of mulch will help prevent weed germination and growth.
- Temperature Control – Mulch helps regulate temperature in your soil by cooling in the summer and warming in the winter.
- Protection – Layers around trees and shrubs can help prevent damage from lawn equipment (such as weed whackers or lawn mowers).
- Improved Water Flow – Improved aeration, structure and drainage
- Overall Appeal – A proper layering of mulch gives a well maintained polish looked to the landscape.
- Landscape Health – Mulching can help protect plants from specific diseases, while also improving the soil fertility.
While mulching is meant to be a beneficial process, when used in excess adverse effects will occur. While piling on a thick layer of mulch is effective in reducing maintenance by suppressing weeds, it is harmful to the things in which it is supposed to protect and can cause additional problems.
DANGERS OF IMPROPER MULCHING
- Excess Moisture – When mulch is used in unnecessary amounts, excess moisture can build up in the root area leading to root rot.
- Disease – Creating a type of “Mulch Mound” around a tree can stress your plants and lead to insect and disease complications.
- Soil Deficiency – Using improper mulches over a long period of time can affect the soil pH balance and lead to nutrient deficiencies and/or toxicities.
- Dehydration – When fine mulch is used thick blankets become mated and can prevent water and air from getting to the soil. This in turn can actually enhance weed growth.
Mulches are available in both organic and commercial forms. Different mulches offer different benefits and vary in the amount of maintenance needed. Before making a decision, research the different variations and decide what is best for your specific needs. Mulching a garden that is going to house fruits or vegetables will have different needs than landscape with only trees and shrubs.