What is Mulch?
Mulch is a specially formulated organic or inorganic material used to cover the topsoil:
- around plants in beds and pits;
- pavement of paths, playgrounds and trails
Mulch performs both decorative and practical functions, providing favorable growing conditions for plants and preventing the emergence of weeds. Depending on the structure of the raw material and the material, different types of mulch are distinguished.
The Organic mulch is a plant-based material that, when gradually decomposed in the soil, returns organic matter to it and increases its fertility. The most common organic mulching materials are tree bark mulch, wood chips, sawdust, pine cones, peat, compost, straw, leaves and cut grass. Inorganic mulch, on the other hand, is of inanimate origin, and this category includes various stone coatings, such as washed pebbles, gravel, decorative stones, clay fragments, brick and stone chips, as well as synthetic materials – agro-nets, geotextiles, mulching films. Sometimes large vegetable farms also use cut rubber or plastic mulch, but this method is considered harmful to nature and therefore undesirable.
Each type of mulch has its own optimal application. For example, synthetic materials – agricultural nets, mulching films – are mainly used in productive horticulture. They effectively control weeds and retain moisture for a long time, but are visually unattractive. Even on steep slopes, where light organic mulch may not be present, inorganic materials such as pebbles or decorative stones will fit better. However, unlike organic materials, they will not play a practical role in soil enrichment.
Organic mulching materials not only control weeds and retain moisture, but also protect plant roots from temperature fluctuations and baldness and enrich the soil with humus. However, almost every organic mulching material has its pros and cons. For example, peat is ineffective in controlling weeds, but is useful in improving the soil and helps to retain soil moisture when applied in a layer at least 10-15 cm thick. Wood chips are a fairly coarse material that decomposes significantly more slowly than bark mulch and often contain dyes, so it is usually used in small areas where a special design effect is required by combining different colors. Sawdust is the cheapest, but also the least popular mulching material, because when compacted, the chips prevent water from entering the soil, and when they decompose, they consume a lot of nitrogen. Mown grass, straw, leaves are more practical than decorative mulching materials and are available seasonally. In autumn, they can be spread under trees to enrich the soil with humus and protect the roots from freezing, but care must be taken not to contaminate the plantations with weed seeds.
Due to its excellent decorative and practical properties, the most popular and widely used organic mulching material is pine bark mulch. This mulch is produced from crushed and sifted pine bark and is available in three fractions: fine, medium and coarse. Pine bark mulch is applied in a layer at least 5 cm thick, and it is supplemented by about 1 cm every year, as the mulch gradually decomposes and becomes embedded in the soil.
Where Mulch is used?
Mulch is used in ornamental horticulture – ornamental gardens, parks, urban greenery, pavements of paths, playgrounds and trails, as well as in productive agriculture – tree and shrub, fruit and berry orchards, perennial beds and vegetable gardens. In pits with a mulch covered with bark mulch, the topsoil does not need to be raked and loosened. Indoors, in turn, mulch is used to plant plants and flowers in decorative pots and boxes.
Depending on the selected mulching material, mulch performs a number of practical and aesthetic functions. Pine bark mulch: inhibits weed development;
- protects the topsoil from erosion and leaching;
- retains moisture in the soil, preventing water losses during the evaporation process;
- creates a pleasant and stable microclimate for plants, reducing temperature fluctuations in the topsoil;
- protects plant roots from baldness;
- promotes favorable biochemical processes and the activity of microorganisms;
- supplements the humus content of the soil by acting as a fertiliser;
- helps maintain soil looseness and forms a good soil structure;
- promotes the development of the plant root system;
- significantly reduces the time spent on the care of greenery, improves the external appearance of greenery.