Mulch is a fantastic product that can awaken any landscaping project. It’s a ‘dressing’ for the bare soil around plants and shrubs that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also has a number of health benefits for the surrounding plants and soils.
The most frequently touted benefits of mulching are its ability to suppress weeds and retain moisture. The mulch provides a protective barrier over the top layer of soil which prevents weeds from growing and helps limit the evaporation of water.
Other than these common benefits, what are some of the hidden benefits to mulching?
Heavy rains will, over time, loosen topsoil and wash it away. This results in a garden riddled with little rivers, dips and valleys where water has begun to dig into the soil.
Mulch placed on top of this soil has the added benefit of ‘breaking the fall’ of the rain that lands on it. The hidden benefit of this is that the dirt below remains undisturbed and unbroken, allowing the falling rain to be absorbed into the dirt below rather than dislodging earth and washing it away (along with all its super important nutrients).
Mulch helps maintain soil nutrients. As mentioned above, when soil gets eroded away by weather, it can also remove or dilute the nutrients in the soil, forcing you to spend money on expensive plant food (or washing away what you’ve already put down).
A layer of mulch helps prevent it from being washed away, in the same way it prevents the soil from being eroded. However, it also adds its own. Organic mulch is (as the name suggests) full of organic material that breaks down over time adding its own nutrients to the soil and giving plants everything they need to flourish.
The organic decomposition of mulch encourages microbial activity and promotes a healthy habitat for earthworm populations (similar to a fallen tree or forest floor). Earthworms naturally aerate soil and disperse nutrients throughout, as well as eating any little pests and critters that it finds. Their borrows promote water penetration and stimulate root growth.
Mulch acts as a nice blanket for the ground, providing an insulating layer so that the ground experiences only gradual changes. During the winter, the insulating layer helps the soil retain heat and helps prevent frost from damaging roots. During the summer, the mulch acts to block the sun from the surface, allowing it to heat up gradually and limiting water evaporation and helps retain moisture.
In addition to regulating the temperature of the soil, it also helps your freshly planted garden! During the cold season, small or shallow planted bulbs and seeds can be pushed out of the ground (called heave or frost-heave) and cause extensive damage to their delicate roots and bulb.
The insulating effects of mulch protect the ground from frost and therefore massively diminish the chances of frost heave to freshly planted bulbs and seeds.
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