How Does Mulch Work?

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Plastic + Wood Chips = Plant Growth?

  • If you look at a well-manicured lawn or garden, you may notice what appears to be plastic coating or even broken up bark surrounding the pristine landscaping. Some may wonder "why would anyone put plastic or wood chips around a perfectly constructed landscape?" The wood or plastic are forms of mulch. They are actually serving a purpose and play a vital role in keeping everything alive and beautiful.

What Mulch Is Made Of

  • Mulch is considered the ultimate guardian for lawns. It serves as a protection device from a number of things in order to facilitate lawn and garden growth. Mulch can be made out of many materials, from pine straw to wood chips. Mulch can also be made out of other plants. This is called living mulch. And, on the other end of the spectrum, mulch can also be made out of plastic. The reason why there are so many different mulches is because each type serves a special purpose, depending on the climate of the protected plants.

How Mulch Works

  • Wood chips or bark mulch can keep water from rapidly evaporating by keeping the sun away from it after it is sprayed on a garden. After an initial watering is done on soil, a gardener would place these wood chips over the soil, adding protection from the sun without smothering the plants.

    If a gardener wanted to plant something before a heavy rainy season, he would use plastic mulch. The plastic mulch also protects soil from being washed away by too much rain. In more northern climates where warmth is sparse, rocks would be used as mulch. The rocks retain heat that comes from direct sunlight, keeping the newly-planted sprouts heated without having to rely on artificial methods.

    In order to suppress weeds, sometimes living mulches are used. They are typically faster-growing crops that give weeds competition in the soil. Sometimes the chemical composition of the living mulch plants can control weed growth. Wood chips or bark mulch can keep water from rapidly evaporating by keeping the sun away from it after it is sprayed on a garden. Mulch also protects soil from being washed away by too much rain, as is done by plastic mulch. In more northern climates where warmth is sparse, rocks retain heat that comes from direct sunlight.

When to Mulch

  • It is best to mulch as soon as you plant a new crop or garden. Most mulches last throughout a season, so consider re-mulching after each one passes. And mulch doesn't even have to serve a direct purpose. Feel free to use wood chips and rock mulch as a decoration to accent your plants. For example, succulent plants look best when combined with rock mulches.

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