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The Purpose of Mulching

1.  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 ANDSTRUCTURE

   – 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