Just like humans, plants also need nutrition to grow and that nutrition is derived from the soil. Soil is naturally replenished but it can be done manually as well because it is important to keep the soil healthy. This is when mulch comes into the picture. Now, you must be wondering what does mulch do in the first place. You will get to know about what is mulch, what is mulch used for, what is mulch made of, and what to do with old mulch as you continue reading the article.
1. What is Mulch?
Mulch can be described as a material that is spread over the surface of the soil. Mostly, mulch is organic in nature. The material is composed of bark, decaying leaves, or compost. The process of applying mulch to the soil is known as mulching. (See Where Did Chili Originate?)
2. How is Mulch applied?
It is very easy to apply mulch because all you have to do is to spread it on the soil, around the tree flower beds, and paths. You can also spread it in areas where you grow flowers and vegetables. You should keep the mulch thickness, normally up to 2 inches (5.1 cm). You can adjust the depth of the layer accordingly. (See Why Do Potatoes Sprout?)
3. What is the best time for Mulching?
Before having an idea of what does mulch do, you should know that it is better to apply it during late spring or early summer. It is a time when the moisture content in the soil is relatively high. It is going to be very helpful during the growing season to gain the maximum benefits from mulching. (See 34 Medicinal Plants Worth Your Garden Space)
4. What Problems can occur due to wrong Mulching?
If not spread evenly, the mulch may affect the moisture content of the soil, and if the mulch layer is very thick,
- It will prevent the water or regular rain (or any kind of watering) from reaching the soil.
- It will reduce the oxygen flow to the soil.
- It will not allow the light showers to reach the soil. (Also read Hottest Desert in the World)
5. What to avoid while Mulching?
Remember the following things while mulching because the wrong application may hinder the growth.
- Plastic mulch should not be used for shrubs because it can affect their root development and long-term health.
- The mulch should be placed at a distance of 6 to 12 inches away from the trunk of woody trees and shrubs.
- Do not pile up much around the stems of vegetable plants and tree trunks because they will become a dwelling place for rodents and slugs.
- Placing wet mulch too close to the plant stems will lead to the rotting of the roots due to stagnant water. (See How to Grow Sunflower In A Pot?)
6. What is Mulch used for?
Much can be used for various gardening purposes, like,
- Enriching soil,
- Preventing erosion,
- Regulating soil temperature,
- Retaining moisture,
- Suppressing the weeds. (Also read Hydroponics: Plants That Grow In Water Only)
7. How does it Enrich the Soil?
The organic mulch decomposes, giving out the nutrients to the soil. All of this improves the texture of the soil that enhances plant growth. The mulch slowly decomposes and, even then, also benefits the soil by keeping it fertile. (See How Does Cactus Grow in Desert?)
8. How does it prevent Erosion?
What does mulch do spreading on the surface of the soil? It prevents the topsoil from being exposed to harsh weather, wind, and flood. Thus, maintaining soil fertility. The damage to the plants is also reduced to some extent. (See What is the Most Expensive Truffle?)
9. What does Mulch do by Regulating the Temperature?
It acts as a barrier between the weather and the soil. It protects the soil from sun, frost, and water, thus helping in maintaining the adequate temperature of the soil. (See Do Sunflowers Need Full Sun?)
10. How is the Moisture retained?
The main thing that mulch does is to protect and improve soil moisture, which further prevents plants from drying out too quickly. Mulch retains the water from regular watering and prevents it from evaporating quickly. But organic mulch is more accurate and beneficial than synthetic mulches. (See What are the Types of Sunflower Seeds?)
11. How can it suppress the Weeds?
Weeds require the same growing conditions that a regular plant needs. But when you spread the mulch around your plant, it will keep the necessary nutrients like air, water, sunlight, and space from reaching them. Thus, it keeps a check on the weeds’ growth, but you have to re-mulch the area if you are using organic mulch. (See What is a Toadstool?)
12. What is Mulch made of?
Mulch can be organic and inorganic, depending on how the ingredients may differ.
Organic mulch contains,
- Grass clippings, tree leaves, chipped bush
- Straw, hay,
- Shredded bark, whole bark nuggets,
- Kitchen scraps,
- Cardboard, wool, newspapers.
- Compost, manure,
- Wood shavings, and sawdust. (See How to Make a Sunflower Garden?)
What does mulch do cant be answered before discussing inorganic mulch which contains,
- Synthetic and inorganic mulch contains stone, black plastic, and landscape fabric.
- Rubber mulch is made from recycled tire rubber.
- Plastic mulch is made from plastic sheets that are spread over the soil and plants grow from within.
- Rock and gravel mulch is spread on the soil, mostly in areas with long winter seasons. It helps in trapping the warmth, thus, enhancing the growing season. (See Features and Types of Bale)
13. What is Colored Mulch?
Some organic mulches are colored by using synthetic additives. Usually, 1-Amino-2-propanol or monois propanolamine is used as a color fastener and pigment dispersant for coloring these mulches. The basic color ranges from black, brown, red, and other colors.
Bark chips, pine straws, and wood chips are mulches that can be colored by dyeing them in a water-based solution. This solution contains a chemical binder and colorant. (Also read 18 Purple Flowering Shrubs For Your Garden)
14. What are Living Mulches?
The plants that grow over an open area of ground and provide protection to the topsoil are in the category of living mulches. These plants are also known as ground covers and are the opposite of weeds. Their purpose is similar to that of organic mulch. These plants are fast-growing and serve the following additional purposes,
- Fixing nitrogen content in the soil,
- Carrying out the dynamic accumulation of nutrients from the sub-soil.
- Produces food for the crops from Rubus tricolor. (Also read Oldest Living Species Alive Today)
15. What to do with Old Mulch?
As you already know what does mulch do, is it the same as the old mulch? Yes, old mulch can be used in various ways like the normal mulch. It is the mulch that has been decomposed to a large extent, then you can mix it with compost and it will work as an organic soil amendment. Compost should be mixed with the mulch for extra benefit. If it is possibly separated from the soil, then you can use it for other purposes like a ground cover, moisture retainer, and weed barrier. (See What’s the difference between annuals and perennials?)
16. What not to do with Mulch or Old Mulch?
After knowing what does mulch do and the benefits of mulch, everyone wants to make the most use of it, but there are certain situations when you have to throw away the old mulch and refrain from using it again.
- If the plants are infected with the fungal disease (early blight, root rot, and wilt disease) then do not use the mulch on those plants.
- Pest larvae can hide and survive in mulch, thus infesting the plants in the winter.
- Do not make a mulch volcano around the trees or seedlings. It can kill them.
- Do not add new mulch over the layer of old hard mulch. It would be better to rake off the hard mulch enabling the soil to breathe.
- Always loosen up the mulch every couple of months as it will prevent mold formation on the top. (See Do Sunflowers Grow Back Every Year?)
Now, you know about what is mulch, what is mulch used for, what is mulch made of, and what does mulch do. Also, you got to know about what to do with old mulch. (See What causes Double Rainbow?)