When it comes to maintaining healthy landscape beds, mulch can be your number one friend! As in most landscape practices, mulching serves both an aesthetic purpose and horticultural purpose. While the aesthetic aspect is pretty straight forward (nice, neat, clean looking landscape beds), the horticultural reasons may not be as well understood. And when it comes to the horticultural reasons there are several.
Horticultural benefits of mulching beds
Mulch Moisture Retention
- One major reason to mulch, is moisture retention. Adding mulch to a landscaped bed will help keep the top layer of soil moist much longer than non-mulched beds. And you guessed it, that helps plants. The constant drying out of the soil in non-mulched beds is not a natural growing environment for the majority of bedding plants. They won’t do nearly as well if they don’t have access to an adequate amount of H2O at their roots.
Mulch Benefits Soil Health, Greatly
- Another horticultural benefit of mulch, is that as it decomposes, it encourages microbial activity in the soil. The increased moisture retention, along with the decomposing organic material helps attract living organism like earthworms and beneficial fungi like mycorrhizae. Earthworm castings (manure) are very high in nutrients. And earthworms aren’t the only contributors. As properly cured mulch decomposes, it delivers food to soil microorganisms who turn the decomposing matter into plant available nutrients. Additionally, a mulched environment also encourages the growth of the beneficial fungi Mycorrhizae. Growing underneath the protection of the mulch layer, Mycorrhizae benefits plants by attaching to plant roots and helping plants feed on soil nutrients more effectively.
Mulch Suppresses Weeds
- Weed suppression. Yes, weed suppression. A healthy amount of mulch added to your beds on an annual or semi-annual basis will reduce weed growth in beds. Weeds aren’t just unsightly, they also compete with other plants for nutrients in the soil. Keeping weeds suppressed keeps the desirable ornamental plants from having to compete for nutrients. But weed suppression is not the same as weed elimination. Which takes us back to our aesthetic quest, a pristine, weed free bed! Possible?
In the next post, we will take a look at the number one question when it comes to controlling weeds in mulched landscape beds, “Do weed barriers work?”
- Mulch helps regulate needed moisture for landscape plants
- Adds organic matter that is turned into plant food by soil organisms
- Aids in the suppression of weeds
- Visually appealing
Keep on growing!