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Learning More about Mulching Mulching is the process of improving the soil around plants by using mulches, which are straw, wood chips, leaves and grass clippings, as well as giving your garden a neat, tidy appearance, and, at the same time, reduce the amount of time spent on watering and weeding. Mulches are either applied to the bare soil or to cover the surface of compost in plant containers. Knowing that plants need constant moisture for proper growth, the moisture retention can be achieved by mulching, which makes use of mulches to absorb the water. Mulches help both in the absorption of water from rainfall and irrigation and the slowing down of evaporation of moisture from the soil. The improved water retention has the advantage of reducing the need for frequent irrigation, thereby allowing for spacing out the plant watering longer to reduce water consumption. Slow erosion can also happen in mulching since it prevents the water from washing the soil out of the garden. Mulch provides as an insulating layer for the soil, therefore allowing the temperature of the ground to change more slowly, and for this reason, mulch is usually applied in the spring or early summer. As the temperature drops in the fall and winter, the mulch layer allows the soil to retain heat, and with that, the warm soil allows the plants to grow longer during those seasons, as well as protecting the plants’ roots from the harsh winter temperature.
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In mulching, the layer of mulch suppresses the growth of unwanted weed in the garden and plant beds, since the mulch prevents sunlight from reaching the germinating weeds from the soil to grow. If weed seeds grow on the top layer of the mulch, they can’t root deeply into the soil and so are unable to grow at all.
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Organic mulch material, like wood chips or leaves, break down over time, such that the decomposing mulch adds nutrient-rich organic matter to the soil, and in effect, these nutrients feed the plants and organisms living in the plant area that are covered with mulch. The decomposed mulch also improve the structure of the soil by adding space between the particles in the soil, such that the added space allows the roots to receive water, oxygen, and nutrients because the soil is not hard nor compact. Garden beds and borders can be mulched entirely but with careful consideration of not smothering low growing plants or piling mulches up against the stems of woody plants. The following procedure is the ideal way of applying mulches: first remove the weeds including the roots, moisten the soil, and apply the layer of mulch with a thickness between 5 cm and 7.5 cm.