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The Purpose of Mulching

Fresh Mulch Beds - After1.  CONTROLS WEEDS

  • suffocates weeds
  • saves labor time and money
  • reduces competition for water and nutrients
  • spares roots near soil surface, which are often damaged by cultivation.

2.  MODERATES SOIL MOISTURE & TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATIONS

  • keeps the soil moist by reducing evaporation and transpiration from weeds
  • buffers seasonal temperature changes, soil stays warmer at night and in the fall, cooler during the day, and in the summer
  • winter mulch decreases frost heave

CAUTION: Mulching slows soil warming in the spring, so don’t put on too early, especially on crops that like warmth.

3.  IMPROVES SOIL FERTILITY AND STRUCTURE

  • adds nutrients as it decomposes although it may tie up nitrogen temporarily if high in carbon
  • reduces leaching losses and top soil loss by wind action and rain running off the surface
  • prevents soil compaction
  • encourages earthworms, whose burrows aerate and drain soil
  • organic matter improves soil structure
  • encourages microbial growth; CO2 evolved by microbes may be important in stimulating plant growth              Source:  Ecological Agriculture Project Publication 64