What do mulches do?

Mulch of any kind is critical for a desert gardener. Even rocks help!

Soils Matter, Get the Scoop!

Question: I’ve heard that mulches can improve water quality—is there a connection? Aren’t they just for landscaping?

mulched-yard Photo by Susan V. Fisk

Landscape mulches come in wide arrays of colors and textures. Pine straw is common in some areas, shredded hardwood bark in others. Mulches can even be cocoa hulls or gravel. They help conserve moisture and suppress weeds, but how well they do those jobs, or how often they need to be replenished, varies from mulch to mulch.

However, mulches do more! After eyeing countless, unplanned, bare soil footpaths winding through urban landscapes, one of my recent graduate students, David Mitchell, wanted to study how mulches affect water runoff and sediment transport. Many rain simulations and muddy, field data collection days later, he had his results on eight different mulch types. His findings have really made me rethink the role of mulches.

First, all mulches have a huge effect…

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About Caliche Chick

I retired from a career as an Environmental Scientist and Botanist. My first career was teaching science and English as a Second Language (ESL), and content classes for ESL students at the middle school level. I also taught introductory biology at the community college level. I have an avid interest in plants that grow with little to no irrigation. I also keep a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and back yard chickens. When I am not in my yard, I am taking Construction Technology Classes at Victor Valley College and working on my "fixer upper" home.
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