Garden View: Mulch benefits: low cost, low maintenance for your home landscapes

Even though we are seriously aware of conserving moisture, slowing flood waters, reducing pesticide use, having healthier plants, smothering weeds, saving money, recycling materials — and on and on — we still have not yet discovered all the benefits of mulching. We have discovered that mulches can help us and our plants make it through the hot, dry times ahead — but, mulching is about saving. Saving plant life, chemical use, money, the environment, and labor, for now and forever!

WHAT IS MULCH?

Organic mulch consists of dead leaves, twigs, fallen branches and other plant debris which accumulate on the earth’s surface. These organic mulches not only conserve moisture, they also feed plants, earth worms, microbes and other beneficial soil life. As microbes digest organic materials they give off a sticky substance that glues soil particles into a crumb-like structure. This crumb-like soil structure allows water to soak in better. Water that soaks in is held on the soil for future plant use.

WHAT DOES MULCH ACCOMPLISH?

Mulch insulates and protects soil from drying caused by evaporation of water from soil exposed to hot sun and winds. Mulches break the force of rain and irrigation water thereby preventing erosion, soil compaction and crusting. Mulched soils absorb water faster. Mulches prevent splashing of mud and certain plant disease organisms onto plants and flowers during

rain or overhead irrigation. The mulch stops light from reaching the soil and thereby prevents germination of many weed seeds. Fewer weeds provide less competition for available moisture and nutrients. Using mulches to control weeds is safer than applying herbicides and safer that cultivating which can damage tender, newly formed roots. Mulches also add attractive features to landscape.

MANAGEMENT OF MULCH

Apply mulch in a layer 2 to 6 inches thick. Layer thickness depends on mulch material, Mulch conserves moisture by insulating and protecting soil from drying from hot water. It also feeds plants and all kinds of soil life, including earth worms and microbs. Mulch insulates and protects soil from drying from hot weather.