The practice of applying mulch is an ancient and effective technique. Mulching is forming the protective layer around the plant. It is a fundamental part of gardening to make plants look beautiful, weed-free and productive throughout the year. Mulch is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress or block weeds, keep the soil and plant roots cool, prevent cold temperature to harm roots in winter, and make the garden bed and landscape look more attractive.
At its simplest, mulch is any material that covers the soil’s surface. In nature, mulch is simply fallen leaves and plant debris. In the garden, mulch can also include compost, wood chips, rotted manure, cardboard, black polythene sheet or even seaweed.
It’s only recently that we’ve come to appreciate mulch’s sustainable and ecological benefits. Done correctly, plant based mulching feeds our soil’s living microorganisms with nutrients and the waste from these tiny microbes creates healthier soil structure for plants, limiting compaction.
Mulch is the ultimate gardening time-saver, no matter if you're tending to flower beds or vegetable gardens. Mulching itself may be a pain, but it reaps many rewards: When done properly, mulch cuts down on the time it takes to water, weed and fight pests. All in all, this makes for healthier fruits, veggies and flowers.
For a more fruitful garden, you want to make sure you pick the best mulch for the job. Even though most mulch types will ward off pests and weeds, some cater to the needs of specific plants, trees or other crops. Mulching is usually practiced when cultivating commercially important crops, fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, nursery saplings, etc. The ideal time for mulching is the end of the rainy season.
Benefits / Advantages of Mulching :
Gardens take on many shapes, sizes, and characteristics. Flower gardens add aesthetic appeal to any property and range from simple to elaborate. Vegetable gardens, which can be very attractive in their own right, are regaining popularity with increasing food prices. All gardens, whether they are flower or vegetable, benefit from the use of mulch.
Other advantages are as follows:
Water conversion : It prevents the direct evaporation of soil water; hence crops require less water. Prevents crusting of the soil surface. Water moves more readily into soil covered with mulch instead of running off. It preserves moisture in the root zone for constant humidity level for plants.
Weed control : This is the most important motive behind many gardeners using mulching techniques. It helps to suppress and reduce weed growth by keeping light from reaching the soil surface.
Root development : It creates a microclimate near the root zone; it helps the white root development of the plant on the upper surface of the soil.
Substrate for plants, flower, and fruit : The mulching films prevent direct contact between soil and flower, fruit, and other plant parts, helping improve flower and fruit quality.
Pest control : The mulching film reflects light, so pests like aphids and thrips, leafminers, are so easy to control. It is also very effective against nematodes. While- Yellow mulching films attract whitefly and help to control whitefly growth.
Heat and cold insulator : The mulching film acts as a heat and cold insulator in winter; mulch helps prevent soil from rapidly freezing, while in summer, it helps control soil temperature. Moderates soil temperatures, keeping it warmer on cold nights and cooler on hot days. Protects plants from the harsh conditions of winter freezes, thaws, and winds.
Soil erosion : Mulching becomes a barrier between soil and raindrop and slows down the soil erosion process. Protects bare soil, reducing erosion and soil compaction. Improves the structure of clay soils and the moisture-holding capacity of sandy soils.
Salinity level : It is observed that there is less salinity level around the dripper where mulch-film is used.
Prevents Nutrient loss: It protects nutrients from evaporation, from the root zone and hence providing continuous fertility level for the plant growth.