Exposed soil rarely occurs in nature because the ground wants to be covered. There are two ways to do this. First, and what nature tries to do, is to cover the soil with plants (this includes weeds!).
The second way to cover soil is to use mulch. Simply put, mulch is a layer of material that covers exposed soil. We’ll cover the types of mulch and which ones are best in a future blog post but, for now, we’ll focus on natural mulches because they are the best.
There are many benefits to using a natural mulch:
Many gardeners use mulch solely because it can provide a beautiful backdrop that accents the plants in your garden or your grass.
Weeds happen. But, weeds can be greatly reduced by using mulch. Mulch can block seeds from finding your soil as they are blown in the wind and, the lucky weeds that do find a way to reach your topsoil and start growing will have a harder time establishing themselves in your soil because they won’t get as much sunlight or space to grow taller.
Soils can dry out from heat and wind. Mulch acts as an insulating layer to keep moisture in your soil. This helps your plants to become more drought tolerant and you can water less frequently and shorter periods of time.
Moderate soil temperature
Most plant roots are in the top few inches of soil and these feeder roots supply most of the nutrients that your plant needs (just as their name suggests!). Mulch provides a protective layer from the extreme hot and cold temperatures that can hurt these important roots.
Reduce soil erosion
Water seeks the lowest point in a garden and can carry soil with it as it travels. This is especially true when soil is compacted from a hard rain, foot traffic, or being baked by the sun. Mulch reduces soil compaction and helps your soil stay where it is.
Reduce soil compaction
Soil needs space for air, water, and living things—like worms, microorganisms and plant roots—to move and grow. Any foot traffic, even for weeding or watering, can compact the soil and reduce the ability of your plants to grow. Heavy rains can also compact your soil over time. Mulch acts as cushion and helps protect your soil from compaction.
Add nutrients and organic matter
Soils need nutrients and organic matter to grow plants. Over time a good mulch breaks down and feeds your soil. This is a big reason that we recommend natural mulches: mulches that will decompose over time.
Reduce landfill waste
In our area, 30-40% of the material going to the landfill can be composted or used as a mulch. There are numerous, important benefits to recycling them but, specific to gardening, using a wood mulch is a great way to return organic matter and important nutrients to your soil and garden plants. This lets your plants and the earth grow good together.
Freestate Farms makes premium landscaping products—compost, topsoil, and mulch—by recycling food and yard waste in Manassas, VA. Our composts, topsoil, and mulches are specially designed to increase the health and productivity of local soils, and with our focus on sustainable practices, this lets the environment and your garden grow good, together. We sell bulk compost, bagged compost, bulk natural mulches, bulk dyed mulches, bagged dyed mulches, and bulk topsoil.