Mulching enriches and protects soil, helping provide a better growing environment.
Mulching is one of the simplest and most beneficial practices you can use in the garden. Mulch is simply a protective layer of a material that is spread on top of the soil. Mulches can either be organic - such as grass clippings, straw, bark chips, and similar materials - or inorganic - such as stones, brick chips, and plastic. Both organic and inorganic mulches have numerous benefits.
- Protects the soil from erosion
- Reduces compaction from the impact of heavy rains
- Conserves moisture, reducing the need for frequent waterings
- Maintains a more even soil temperature
- Prevents weed growth
- Keeps fruits and vegetables clean
- Keeps feet clean, allowing access to garden even when damp
- Provides a "finished" look to the garden
Organic mulches also improve the condition of the soil. As these mulches slowly decompose, they provide organic matter, which helps keep the soil loose. This improves root growth, increases the infiltration of water, and also improves the water-holding capacity of the soil. Organic matter is a source of plant nutrients and provides an ideal environment for earthworms and other beneficial soil organisms.
While inorganic mulches have their place in certain landscapes, they lack the soil improving properties of organic mulches. Inorganic mulches, because of their permanence, may be difficult to remove if you decide to change your garden plans at a later date. Therefore, this tip sheet is limited to the use of organic mulches.
Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.