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What Is the Purpose of Mulch? (7 Great Benefits)

What Is the Purpose of Mulch? (7 Great Benefits)

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Gardening can be one of the most relaxing hobbies if you know what you’re doing. Once you have the basics down, you can zone out and enjoy the greenery as you work.

Yet, there are many factors to take into account. For instance, you have to keep an eye on soil moisture levels and nutrient concentrations.

Luckily, mulching can help with all of that. It’s a quick way to ensure your growing medium can sustain plants without intervention.

So, at this point, you may be wondering, what is the purpose of mulch? If that’s the case, I can help you get to the bottom of the mystery.

In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about mulching. I’ll also cover the benefits of the process and why it’s crucial.

What Is Mulch?

Most gardeners around the world rely on mulching to ensure they grow healthy plants. To help you understand why that’s the case, here’s a quick rundown of what mulch is.

A wide majority of people think of the substance as a fertilizer. While it can add nutrients to the soil, mulch is much more than that.

It’s any protective material that you use to cover your soil. This can come in many forms, with a variety of applications and benefits.

What Are the Types of Mulch?

There are quite a few types of mulch you can use in your garden. Yet, we can break down most varieties into two categories: organic and inorganic.

The former consists of natural materials. This can include:

  • Dead leaves
  • Bark
  • Wood
  • Compost
  • Straw
  • Grass clippings
  • Sawdust

Once you apply this mulch to your garden, it’ll begin decomposing. That, in turn, will fertilize the soil and enrich it with all sorts of minerals.

Yet, as time passes, the mulch layer will break down and disappear. So, you’ll have to reapply it frequently.

Moving on, inorganic mulch consists of synthetic materials. That may include:

  • Plastic
  • Stone
  • Gravel
  • Rubber
  • Landscape fabric
  • River rocks

Thankfully, these materials can last for an incredibly long time. Because of that, they can act as permanent mulching solutions for your garden.

However, they may make cleaning your backyard a tough chore.

Why Is Mulching Important?

Now that you know what mulch is and its types, I can move on to the benefits of the material. In this section, I’ll cover the most significant advantages of mulching.

1 – Keeps Weed Growth in Check

Weeds are one of the most common issues that face gardeners. These plants can grow rapidly and deplete the nutrients in your soil.

Because of that, they’ll affect how other plants in the garden bed grow.

On top of that, getting rid of weeds can prove to be quite a challenge. Thankfully, mulch can help with this issue.

That’s because the material will completely cover the top layer of soil. This will reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches weeds.

So, the pesky plants won’t be able to grow.

2 – Prevents Excessive Evaporation

During the summer, the sun can be exceptionally scorching. So, when it hits the soil, it’ll cause the water in the growing medium to evaporate.

Luckily, if you add a layer of mulch on the surface, you can greatly reduce the water loss.

Not only will this make growing plants easier, but it’ll save you money. That’s because you won’t have to water your garden as frequently.

3 – Regulates Soil Temperature

A mulch layer on top of your soil can act as an insulating barrier. It’ll trap air particles, which can help control the temperature of the growing medium.

During the winter, mulch can absorb heat to ensure your plants don’t frost over. Plus, in the summer, the layer will cool off the growing medium.

This will eliminate dramatic temperature fluctuation, which can be damaging to plants.

4 – Prevents Soil Erosion

While soil is an excellent growing medium, it’s not without flaws. It can erode easily due to strong winds or heavy rainfall.

This will make it much more difficult for plants to take root and grow. A quick fix for this issue is mulching.

Adding the protective layer on top will prevent the soil from washing away in the rain.

5 – Improves Soil Texture

Mulch creates the ideal environment for beneficial microbes to grow. These will activate nutrients and change the texture of the soil.

It’ll cause the growing medium to stiffen up a bit. This will give roots a better surface to grip.

Plus, it’ll improve water retention.

6 – Enhances the Look of Your Garden

Mulch is an amazing way of beautifying your garden. That’s because it provides a neat, uniform layer that covers the soil.

For starters, this will decrease the chances of you leaving muddy footprints. Plus, it’ll enhance your curb appeal.

7 – Increases Soil Nutrient Content

As I mentioned, organic mulch decomposes and releases nutrients into the soil. This will provide plants with all the nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy.

Although, this process takes a long time. So, you may need to add other fertilizers to the soil.

How Often Should You Use Mulch?

The answer to this question will depend on the type of mulch you use. If you rely on inorganic materials, then you only need to add mulch once every three to five years.

Moving on, with organic mediums, you’ll need to increase the frequency. Typically, gardeners should add mulch about once a year.

Yet, in some cases, this won’t be enough to keep the soil in tip-top shape. So, it’s best to add organic mulch twice a year, once during spring and the second time in fall.

How Much Mulch Should You Use?

To figure out how much mulch to use, you need to consider the size of your garden. Start out by measuring the width and length of the space.

Then, multiply these two numbers to get the surface area of your garden in square feet.

Next, you should think about how thick you want the mulch to be. Ideally, it should be between three to four inches thick.

So, you should multiply the surface area by the thickness of the mulch. This will give you a rough estimate of how much material you need.

Final Thoughts

If you’re trying to figure out the purpose of mulch, there are a few factors to consider. For starters, there are two types of mulch, organic and inorganic.

Each one has uses, benefits, and drawbacks.

Moving on, regardless of what type you choose, mulch has many advantages. These include keeping weed growth in check and preventing excessive evaporation.

Besides that, mulch can prevent soil erosion and regulate soil temperature.

Finally, if you’re using organic mulch, then you need to replace it at least once a year. As for inorganic mulch, it can last for up to five years.


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