Mulch isn’t just for looks. By simply spreading some over your garden, you can keep wind from eroding the soil, prevent moisture evaporation during dry periods, reduce runoff, and moderate soil temperatures. Mulch also helps control weeds, and can even prevent insects that over-winter in the soil from emerging to lay eggs on new plants. There are two broad categories of mulch: natural and man-made. Natural mulches include bark, compost, peat moss, pine needles, dried lawn clippings, leaves, and sawdust. Natural mulches don’t last as long as man-made types, but they’re great for improving the organic content of the soil as they break down. Mulches of this type are usually spread over the soil surface and around plants to a depth of 2 to 9 centimetres (1 to 4 inches). Man-made mulches include landscape fabrics, polyethylene film, aluminum foil, and biodegradable paper. They usually come in large rolls. To apply, the material is rolled out and pinned down at the edges. Holes are punched through for planting. Man-made mulches tend to keep the soil warmer in winter and they last longer. But they aren’t as attractive as natural mulches.

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