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Mulching: Benefits

by | Oct 30, 2022 | Environment, Sustainable Development

Mulch is a layer of materials applied on the surface of the soil. Mulch can be made from a variety of ingredients, such as dry leaves, straw, pieces of wood, bark, sawdust, animal manure, weeds, and more. But is mulching good for the soil?

What is Mulching?

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Mulching is one of the most beneficial things you can do if you have a garden or a farm. Mulch helps to preserve the water in the soil- it reduces water loss in the soil. Thus, you do not have to spend much time watering your garden and thus save water. Using mulch will reduce the germination of weeds- resulting in the growth of fewer weeds to compete for nutrients and water, also saving time from pulling weeds.

Mulching significantly improves soil aeration and drainage and minimizes soil erosion. It covers the surface of the soil, keeping it warm during the winter months and cool in the summer months. Mulch can also help give your farm or garden a well-groomed and professional appearance. It can also keep your plants from getting dirty.

There are various types of mulch one can use: the two main types of mulch include organic and inorganic. Organic mulch includes dry leaves, woodchips, grass, straws, pine needles, tree bark, coconut fiber, and other plant ingredients. The decomposition rate of this type of mulch depends on the climate and land. The mulches that decompose faster need to be applied to the soil repeatedly. Despite this disadvantage, organic mulch is considered to be the better one as the decomposition process improves soil fertility.

Inorganic mulch includes fabrics, rubber, roll plastic, lava rocks, and several types of stone. This type of mulch does not decompose, so it does not need to be applied often. Although inorganic mulch preserves water in the soil, it does not increase soil fertility or provide nutrients.

For sites that drain well, mulch must be spread to a depth of around 2 to 4 inches. For sites with poor drainage, a much thinner layer of mulch must be spread. In gardens, do not pile mulch against the tree trunk as mulch close to tree trunks will attract rodents that will eat the tree’s bark. This can also result in fungal diseases and other issues.

If mulch occurs naturally in your garden- dry leaves falling on the ground- it is important to check the mulch’s depth. Rake the old mulch to break up matted materials. Add new mulch if necessary, making sure not to bring the depth over 4 inches.

Rolling plastic mulch in the vegetable garden can significantly affect your yields. Red and white mulch is generally better as it improves yields of strawberries and tomatoes and can increase productivity by 30 percent, respectively. Clear plastic acts like a mini-greenhouse, so one should be careful.

When using roll plastic mulch, it is essential to know that water can only enter the soil where there are holes. Plant roots expect to receive water from the drip line and grow accordingly. No matter the type of mulch, it will help improve soil fertility and save a significant amount of water, time, and money.

Mulching: The Benefits of Mulch

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Considering the amount of soil degraded around the world today, mulching will prove helpful in increasing its fertility. Around 33 percent of the planet’s soils are degraded, and more than 90 percent could degrade by 2050. Soil also acts as a carbon sink; it has the ability to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil carbon pool. This is known as soil carbon sequestration. Protecting and restoring soil could help absorb over 5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. And mulching is a great way to protect and increase soil fertility and health.

 

Author

  • Sigma Earth

    The author has done a master's in Environmental science and is currently working as chief Environmental Advisor with New Delhi State Government.

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